weekend free-for-all – December 15-16, 2018

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school.)

Book Recommendation of the Week: I am going to refer you to this year’s complete list of book recommendations, with a particular nudge to buy the Ask a Manager book as a holiday gift for all your loved ones.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 922 comments… read them below }

    1. Red Reader*

      Peanut blossoms! Mix together 1 cup of peanut butter, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 egg until it forms a dough, then roll it into balls and bake at 350 for about ten minutes. When you take it out of the oven, press an unwrapped Hershey kiss, Reese’s mini, or Rolo candy into the top of each cookie.

      (Alternately, mix chocolate chips or M&Ms into the dough before baking.)

      That said, my gluten-intolerant bestie says that “the King Arthur GF cup-for-cup all-purpose is the bomb” and that she’s been using it for everything since she discovered it this year with great results in all her baking experiments :)

      There’s also a glorious peanut butter fudge recipe linked in my username.

      1. OMG GF Cookies*

        HOly cow I’d never heard of these before, but I had to google flourless almond butter cookies because these sound nice and easy! And I smashed a couple of recipes together and tried it and OMG these are now my favorite GF cookies ever. Soft, chewy, super easy. Thank you so much for this tip, my life now has 100% more cookies in it and it is wonderful.

        Flourless Chocolate Cookies (makes 8 large cookies)
        1/2 cup almond butter
        1/4 cup granulated sugar
        1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
        2 TBS cocoa powder
        1 egg
        1/4 tsp kosher salt
        1/2 tsp baking soda
        1/2 tsp vanilla extract

        1. Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Cover the bowl and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes to an hour.
        2. Preheat oven to 350°F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
        3. Form balls with a generous TBS of dough. Place on parchment-lined sheet 2 inches apart and smoosh each ball semi-flat.
        4. Cook for 9 – 11 minutes–cookies will be very soft when you pull them out. Let rest on the cookie sheet for 10 min before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

    2. Dr. KMnO4*

      I make gluten free sugar cookies with 1-2 teaspoons of anise extract. Either from a box mix or from scratch.

    3. Llellayena*

      Pignoli cookies: almond paste, eggs, sugar, pine nuts and I can’t remember what else. I’ll post the recipe later, I don’t have a copy because it requires a food processor and I don’t own one. I make them at my mom’s house.

      1. Llellayena*

        Pignoli cookies:
        Blend in food processor 12 oz almond paste and 1 cup granulated sugar. Add 1/2 cup confectioners sugar and 2 egg whites and blend until combined (will separate from wall of processor). Form into 1 inch balls and roll in pine nuts (1 cup pine nuts for rolling). Place on parchment lined tray and bake at 325 deg (Fahrenheit if you’re out of the US) for 15-18 min. Cool on pan for a couple of min before moving to wire rack. Dust with confectioners sugar before serving.

    4. Junior Dev*

      You can do cheesecake or peanut butter pie with a cookie crust made from gluten free graham crackers or Oreo-style cookies.

    5. Cookie Monster*

      This recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free as a nice bonus, and they’re incredible.

      3 cups powdered sugar
      ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
      1 teaspoon salt
      2 large egg whites
      1 large egg
      4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

      1.Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
      2.Whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a large bowl.
      3.Whisk in your egg and egg whites. It’ll take a long time to blend it all together and it’ll seem like you don’t have enough moisture, but it’s supposed to look like that.
      4. Incorporate your chocolate chunks or cacao nibs or chopped chocolate of your choice!
      5. Spoon the dough onto a cookie sheet that’s either lined with parchment paper or well-sprayed. The dough may seem gloppier than you’re used to with cookie dough, but it’ll work out.
      6. Bake for 14-16 minutes in the oven

    6. Dr. Anonymous*

      New Orleans-style pralines. Technically, they’re candy, but they’re shaped like cookies. For extra fancy, dip them in chocolate (I do not do this, because I hate chocolate).

    7. Mrs. Carmen Sandiego JD*

      3 ingredient coconut macaroons (with condensed milk and almond extract), then dip in chocolate

      Chocolate chip cookies using gluten free pancake mix and pb

    8. Always science-ing*

      Thomas Haus’s chocolate sparkle cookies. I’ll add a link to the recipe as a reply to this comment. FYI good quality chocolate chips work great for the semisweet chocolate the recipe calls for.

    9. AcademiaNut*

      I don’t eat gluten free, but these cookies are amazing!

      Haselnussmakronen

      2 eggs
      250 g icing (powdered) sugar
      250 g finely ground hazelnuts
      zest of half a lemon

      Beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer for at least 10 minutes, until it’s foamy and the sugar dissolved. Fold in the hazelnuts and lemon peel.

      Use a pipe bag to put onto baking paper on a cookie sheet (or do what I do and use a small spoon and your fingers). Bake for 12-15 minutes at 180 C until they are slightly brown and form cracks on top. Let cool before removing from baking paper (otherwise they’ll stick).

      You can dip them in melted chocolate, but they really don’t need it.

      Two other treats I do which aren’t actually cookies – one is white chocolate, dried cranberry and walnut clusters, the other is milk chocolate coconut clusters.

    10. TL -*

      Brownies :) gluten free brownies are really, really good (but I’ve never been a huge cookie fan and don’t feel the need to seek out a good gf substitute.)

    11. Anon Accountant*

      Didn’t read all the replies but the website “gluten free in a shoestring budget” used to be pretty good. Haven’t been on the website for a long time though. Hope this helps!

  1. Lady Jay*

    The leaves in my apartments’ driveway have been getting blown for the last half hour and I’m getting a headache.

    Leafblowers should be BANNED.

    1. WellRed*

      I so agree! A few years ago, a neighbor’s lawn guy was leaf blowing (it was early evening). It took forever, I kept thinking will it ever stop? Well, the next door neighbor to that house couldn’t take it anymore and flipped his lid, came out yelling and hollering (took awhile for the leaf guy to hear it over the noise). Me and one other neighbor went running out because it sounded like maybe some guy screaming at his wife or some something.

    2. Llellayena*

      Even better was the first year with my new landlord where the people he sent over to clear an inch of snow decided the best way was a snowblower…at 11pm…in the middle of town.

    3. Student with mental health disabilities*

      Hear, hear!! I remember when I was still living at home, the landscapers would use two leaf blowers AT THE SAME TIME!!

      Lawnmowers are just as bad, but I’ll save that rant for sometime in the spring. lol.

    4. KarenK*

      I must defend the leafblower! I’ve raked leaves every year since we bought the house in 1984. It’s hard, backbreaking work. This year, I broke my wrist earlier this fall, and was forbidden to rake by my surgeon. My husband has back issues, so raking is out of the question for him. We bought an electric leafblower, and it saved our lawn and made it easy to clean up the strawberry beds. We’re wondering what took us so long.

      That said, we live in a semi-rural area. There’s always someone running something.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It seems to me that manufacturers could do something to muffle the sound level. They can make cars and riding mowers quieter, why not leaf blowers.

        Although I am rural there is a bunch of houses around me. The acoustics are really strange. Things echo and sound much louder than one would expect. Just normal, conversation carries surprisingly far. It’s weird. I can see where some communities would have big problems.

        I do thin k that the electric is quieter or less annoying in some way? I hope so, I have a blower/vac that I use. But I watch the time of day with any noisy outside equipment.

        1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

          I have heard, and don’t know if it’s true, that American appliances and power tools are noisier than others because Americans equate noise with power. Although given the global market, the more I wonder. But it sounds right to me!

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I see the value in blowing the leaves out of the beds, but then I like to mulch them (or have my yard guy do it). Just mow over them and they’re gone. :)
        This year, since I couldn’t pay anyone to mulch and don’t have a mower anymore, I just let them go.

    5. young professional*

      maybe you’re being facetious and maybe I’m oversensitive but my dad is a day laborer and I’ve helped him every summer clean up leaves for wealthier houses, and while it’s definitely annoying to listen to, it’s much worse for people who have to be out in the cold doing this! The leafblower is backbreaking but helps cut down hours scraping a rake across the ground…. we all have to make a living somehow without getting yelled at by people who don’t like the noise.
      /sidenote, whenever I hear a noise I absolutely hate, I pretend it’s my loved one who is doing it. That way I think, oh it’s just my lovely best friend clattering dishes in the kitchen, I’ll forgive her, or: man my dad is really hauling ass blowing the leaves for me outside, I’m so grateful!

      1. Kj*

        Honestly, they need to make leaf blowers quiet for the people who have to use them. They are very damaging to hearing….

        1. Gingerblue*

          (I lived for a few years in a neighborhood where EVERYONE had lawn care services who would show up while they were at work and I was working from home, and you could go for literally hours without getting a break from the RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR-quiet-RAWR, so I’ll admit I’m badly sensitized to the damn things at this point. I’ll also say that punctuated noises like this are far less annoying when you’re the one controlling them.)

    6. Last Good Guy*

      It takes my neighbors lawn guy 35 minutes to blow a 500 sq ft yard. I’m very thankful for noise canceling headphones. BTW, it’s scheduled for when that neighbor is not at home.

    7. The Other Dawn*

      I use one and I love it. I can deal with hearing it in the distance. What I hate is when my neighbor has his landscaper over on a Sunday morning to do the leaf blowing, lawn mowing etc. And of course the landscapers at work decide to blow the leaves and debris under my office window whenever I’m doing something that needs concentration.

    8. Ranon*

      I hate leaf blowers, especially the gas ones. All the landscape architects I know are totally against the whole idea of removing leaves at all- mulching in place keeps the organic matter in the soil and makes the soil a lot healthier.

      Of course, they also hate lawns since lawns are very much not suited to our climate either…(but if anyone’s looking to replace a lawn mower, get a mulching one! Even lawns do better if the grass clippings stay in place, no need to haul nutrients away and then pay to put more on/ wash more into your local waterways)

    9. Gingerblue*

      God yes. I don’t mind the noise from things, like lawnmowers, that you turn on and leave on for a while; it recedes into background noise after a minute. It’s the off-on-off-on-off-on-off-on-off-oh-you-thought-I-was-done?-ha-ha-ha!-on-off-on-off nature of them that makes them impossible to ignore.

  2. WellRed*

    I can’t believe I am even asking this. All my mother wants is a big bottle of good lotion (from the drugstore) and a lotion applicator for her back. She’s 73 and apparently very itchy this year. Any suggestions on the lotion? Aveeno? Eucerin? Nivea? Something that works well but also feels good going on. If this is all she wants, I gotta make it count. Plus, if she don’t like it, I’ll hear about it ; )

    1. Lady Jay*

      I use Vanicream for lotion. No scents, no add-ons, originally designed for kids, so it’s super gentle. I have adult eczema and it’s the only thing I use.

      1. OhNo*

        +1 to this. Vanicream was recommended to me by both my dermatologist and my GP, since my skin gets terribly dry in the winter, but is also extremely sensitive. I heard from both of them and from several other doctor-types that it’s popular in the medical community, too, for the folks that get dry skin because they have to constantly wash and/or sanitize their hands.

        1. valentine*

          Miracle Foot Cream. Nasty name, tolerable scent. Works in a single application if lathered on thick and covered with fabric.

      2. The Messy Headed Momma*

        Vanicream for the win but also Vaniply Ointment for those of us who wash our hands all day! I only use it on the backs of my hands & heavy on the cuticles.

    2. PaulaTwoKids*

      I have inherited dry skin, so go through 32 ounces of lotion every month. I often make my own, but my favorite brand is Suave Advanced Therapy. Inexpensive but is one of he best IMHO.

      You might also get her a loofah stick so she can scrub her back as well…with dry skin it’s important to remove any remaining lotion and the dry skin layer.

    3. Aly_b*

      Vaseline intensive care advanced repair unscented is powerful stuff. And maybe a small fancy bottle of something that smells pretty for a treat too? The unscented will always be more effective but sometimes a lil something nice is good too.

      1. GhostWriter*

        I love the unscented intensive care from the Vaseline brand too. Works great and really doesn’t feel greasy at all. I use it for hands and body. I buy the 1o 0z bottles since I find the size convenient, but they usually have 20 ounce pump bottles at larger stores like Target.

    4. Anonyme*

      Would getting small sample sizes of a bunch and then letting her choose her favourite work?

      I have to use hand sanitizer at work constantly and find Glysomed works well.

      1. Alston*

        I like this idea! Small ones and then when she picks her favorite buy the vat of the big one.

        For my itchy legs and dry feet I use Om She Body Butter. It’s one of those round plastic jars. I usually find them at like TJ Maxx or HomeGoods for $4-5 each and just stock up. The texture is thick but not sticky and it is just wonderful feeling.

    5. otterbaby*

      I’ve been using Aveeno for years. It’s actually prescribed in the UK as a treatment for eczema, so that must say something. It’s also not scented and not sticky/greasy afterwards.

      1. Ron McDon*

        Me too! I have eczema, but when that’s not flaring up my skin is just incredible dry and itchy.

        Aveeno is the only lotion I’ve tried which leaves my skin feeling soothed and looking soft and sheeny rather than dry and crepey.

        I use the green packaged daily moisturising lotion – that’s the most soothing, I have found.

      1. Lena Clare*

        Yeah Aveeno, and/or bathing in oat milk which you can do by putting oats in a pop sock and tying the top before placing in a bath of running water. The oats turn the water milky and are very moisturising.

      2. GhostWriter*

        I started using Cerave’s moisturizing cream this winter when my face started peeling and flaking. My face was back to normal in a few days. I really like that it’s a 16 ounce jar (as opposed to the 3 ounce face lotions I usually get for the same price) and they always have $2 off printable coupons on their website.

    6. Penny*

      Eucerin is excellent. You want something thick and goopy- something you have to scoop out of a jar. The thinner stuff that you pump has alcohol in it, and alcohol is a drying agent.

      1. Kimmybear*

        Eucerin is great. I use it on my toddler who has very sensitive skin. I also recommend Aveeno but I can’t use it anymore as I am allergic to oats. Both were recommended by my dermatologist.

        1. Carol of the Bells*

          I have eczema as well and Cetaphil cream lotion in the vat is my go-to. I also use Aveeno and Eucerin when the cetaphil isn’t available. Eucerin feels a bit oily to me once applied. Thank you for asking this question because I now have a couple of other lotions I can try and possibly put on my shortlist. :)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I’ve been using the Walmart Equate version of Cetaphil bar soap. I was a huge fan of Yardley’s English Lavender, but my skin has gotten drier. For lotion, I like Gold Bond for eczema, but I’d like to try the Vanicream.
            Eucerin is VERY oily. :P

      2. The Other Dawn*

        Yes to Eucerin! I use the ones that come in the jar. I use the really thick creme on my hands at work and the thinner one at home. The thinner one would be best for her back since it’s easier to spread.

      3. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

        The Eucerin in a jar… and it is super reasonable at Costco Pharmacy, if you have access. (You can special order, only takes like 3 days). I’ve had my vat for a long time. Good for scar tissue, burns, etc. (I’ve used it for that).

      1. WellRed*

        My aunt recommended the roller ball one but I thought it looked like it’d be a pain to clean. This is more like it.

    7. Wishing You Well*

      WellRed didn’t ask about hands, but I’ll add this: My fingertips crack and bleed every winter. The only thing that helps is “Working Hands” by O’Keeffe. I get the tub, not the tube because it’s too hard to get all the product out of the tube.

      1. Thursday Next*

        By this point in the year, my hands need Aquaphor or Aveeno Skin Healing Ointment layered under a lotion. Then I put cotton gloves on.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I like St. Ives. Many stores carry it and it comes in different types/scents. I have been given it as gift, too.

      Make sure she drinks water every day and she adds healthy oils to her diet. Dry skin like this can be exasperated by dehydration and lack of oils. So while not a magic bullet, these two things are really important for overall health as well as her skin.

      If you can get her to change over to an organic soap or body wash, that will also help as regular soaps can be pretty drying.
      Using a loofa sponge for bathing might help with blood circulation getting to the skin and in turn make skin healthier also. (Loofas are coarse, but we don’t use them like sandpaper. Don’t grind on the skin, a nice soft touch is enough.)

    9. That girl from Quinn's house*

      My dermatologist “prescribed” coconut oil for dry skin. It works really well, though it’s quite messy and you have to be careful that you’ve rubbed it in and blotted off the extra before getting dressed, or you’ll ruin your clothes. It was a lifesaver when I spent time in a poorly-managed pool.

    10. Ranon*

      I like Everyone Lotion in unscented- I find it’s a more truly unscented lotion and doesn’t have some of the masking/ weird notes that some of the other “unscented” lotions do. Plus it moisturizes but doesn’t leave an oily residue.

    11. Aphrodite*

      I like fragrance-free Lubriderm. My dad used this for years because he had itchy skin. I love it because it has no scent, is not greasy but works very well, and is inexpensive.

    12. JSPA*

      Eucerin makes a strongly mentholated version that’s sometimes hard to get. It stings badly on raw skin but it can kill a back itch like nothing else–and except for the menthol, it’s very gentle. They make several other products with similar names, so match exactly: Eucerin Skin Calming Itch Relief Treatment with Cooling Menthol. It’s officially “analgesic,” which tells you how strong it is. I stockpile when I find it.

  3. BRR*

    I’m struggling with coming up with gift ideas for my nieces and nephew, ages 8-13. I’m getting them some books but can’t think of anything else and gift lists online are a bit….off. They’re pretty active kids and are outside a lot. Any recommendations? Thanks in advance!

    1. Galactic Mermaid*

      I’m a big fan of the Mighty Gorl holiday gift guide (great for children of any gender) and The Kid Should See This Gift Guide. If you google those names they will pop up. The mighty girl website is much easier to navigate and allows you to search by age and interest, but the kid should see this has some amazing and unusual items so it can be worth the searching. Good luck!

    2. rubyrose*

      So I don’t have kids and don’t have to buy for any at this stage, but….
      I have three neighborhood girls in the 8 – 11 age range. They have watched me doing some beading (seed beads) and I’ve been teaching them to do their own. I also mix my own lotions, using a base lotion and adding essential oils to them. I’ve had them so some for themselves. Maybe they have kits along that line for children?

      They also like to borrow the training tunnel I have for my dog and use it in their outdoors play. You can get one in the $35 – $45 dollar range at Amazon; just go to Pet Supplies and search for dog tunnel.

    3. tab*

      I buy my great nieces & nephews family memberships to the local museums (science, natural history) and the zoo. It’s a fun thing the whole family can do throughout the year, and it’s not another thing that will just take up space until they toss it.

      1. New ED*

        I’m a parent and this is my favorite- experiences over stuff! I have a good friend who gifts my kids gymnastics lessons each winter and they love it. You could similarly do passes for a trampoline place, rock climbing gym, etc.

    4. Washi*

      What I wanted most at age 8 – 10 was a bunch of huge moving boxes to build forts out of. If you’re looking for a more “out of the box” idea :D

      1. fieldpoppy*

        My nieces love gift cards for books — they loved being able to pick out their own at that age. At that age I also often bought them one outdoor safety thing they needed or were growing out of — like a PFD, bike helmet or soccer shoes.

      2. Rhymes with Mitochondria*

        Yes, boxes, add some duct tape, markers to decorate it, maybe a flat sheet and some clamps. A fort building kit would be AWESOME!

    5. Llellayena*

      There’s a bunch of “science” kits out there this year where you can build catapults or robots. You can give the “I’m learning something” and hide it in the “this toy throws things” packaging!

    6. Aurora Leigh*

      My boyfriend’s nieces and nephew are on the low end of that age range, but not really outdoorsy . . .

      One set is getting Fortnite themed gift baskets — gift card for their system and some 3d printed fortnite stuff. Their parents are getting the same — that whole family plays together, so it’s kind of nice.

      The other set is getting books. One also is getting a pair of slippers with a hedgehog applique. The other one is getting a L.O.L. Surprise! Stationery set.

      We have a $20 limit on each kid.

    7. anon24*

      Have they tried slack lining? You need 2 trees and a kit can be bought online for $50-$70 on Amazon. I haven’t tried it myself, being an apartment dweller, but I would have loved something like that as an outdoorsy kid

      1. The New Wanderer*

        My kids LOVE the slack line. We only get it out while camping because we don’t have suitable trees close by, but it’s a lot of fun.

    8. Nacho*

      What’s wrong with their online giftlists? If they’ve requested certain items, I’d make sure to get them those things, or at least something similar, before you go off-list.

      1. Llamas!*

        I took it as gift lists developed by companies online (like “10 best gifts for grade school kids” list)

        1. BRR*

          Yeah this is what I meant. I feel like they pick things at random and their recommended ages are all over the place.

    9. young professional*

      the best gift I’ve gotten as a kid was a badminton set – we break it out every summer to play as a family with my sister and dad. great way to spend the afternoon, and those who can’t play sit on lawnchairs to cheer or catcall!

      1. Lady Kelvin*

        I was thinking along these lines too. Yard games! Corn hole, boccie, etc. would be great since they live somewhere with lots of yard space. I remember playing them since I was tiny and they are nice because they are fairly adjustable in terms of difficulty for different ages.

    10. Falling Diphthong*

      Cash. Lacks originality, but you can view it as a gift of flexibility. A chance to buy something they wouldn’t normally buy.

      Ask them for a list, or suggestions. Because one kid’s “this is the cool clothing store” is another kid’s “this is the lame clothing store.” Or you would never guess the specific gaming mousepad that your niece is coveting, because it’s so niche to her interests.

      Think Geek–website of geeky items.

      1. Cats On A Bench*

        Yeah, we’re at the cash is best stage with our kids too. But that doesn’t satisfy my MIL. She likes to shop. So I told her to gift them a (home-made) certificate good for lunch and shopping with grandma. She can even put a budget limit on the certificate. That way they get to pick out their stuff, but they (and grandma) get the gift of special time together… and she still gets to shop!

    11. Sam I Am*

      Headlamps. Get them all different colors. I’ve done this as a go-to kid gift when I want to stay away from “toys,” they get used all the time.

    12. Ranon*

      Flash lights (or headlamps!), magnifying glasses? Honestly kids that agree, highly active, in a rural area, I’d consider tool kits or multitools if they have the type of parents to teach good safety skills (assuming they don’t already own some). I spent a fair bit of my childhood running wild in the woods and definitely could have had fun with a pocket saw. Or some sort of kit with something to do with solar panels.

      I’d also check REI and whatever your regional outdoors store is for ideas

        1. Thursday Next*

          An exploring kit—headlamp, compass, multi-tool (for the older kids), hydration pack or old-school canteen—would be great. Maybe a regional wildlife guide to go along with it?

    13. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If your budget allows, family radios (aka new style walkie talkies) are excellent for kids. Look up “Family Radio Service” on Wikipedia if you’re not familiar with them. One for each kid and one for parent, and you increase their safe roaming radius.
      Water-pressure rockets are still cool. And giant bubble kits….but those aren’t good in frozen weather.

    14. Ahead Fish*

      I got a bunch of Korean candies and snacks for my nieces and nephews last year. They’re in that age range, and they pretty much thought those bags were the best thing since sliced bread. Basically, “YouTubers try unusual snacks” is a whole genre, and YouTubers are apparently now the coolest people on the planet. Get them a mix of delicious things and things they’ll find more questionable, so they can dare each other to try them, which is part of the cool factor. Obviously, you can modify the snack origin if your nieces and nephews are already very familiar with a particular country.

    15. Ron McDon*

      Here in the UK making your own slime is the big thing with my niece and her friends (she’s 9). You can buy lots of kits so they can mix their own preparations!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        This is like drumsets…check with the parents first. Slime spills can ruin clothes & furniture so gets banned in some households. (I have an antique table to refinish because of this stuff. I suspect it’s the borax that stripped a tidy circle down to bare wood…)

    16. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yoyos and juggling toys. Nerf stuff.

      “Miraculous LadybugGirl” uses a yoyo as a secret weapon….her companion is Chat Noir. So consider adding cosplay masks for kids who are into the show. I’m dithering over replica superhero rings myself…

    17. Amerdale*

      Not really for outdoors, but for rainy days: How about a big box of mixed pieces of Lego? I think as a kid you can never have enough of that stuff. And it boosts creativity. Maybe a more technologically advanced set for the older kid.

  4. foolofgrace*

    I don’t know if this would be categorized as that thing we don’t discuss, in which case I apologize, take this comment down; but I’m thinking of it as a hobby or sideline. Does anyone have experience with book narration? I think I’d be good at it but you need to invest in a microphone, pre-amp, headphones, and set up a quiet place to narrate. I thought I’d start with non-fiction because otherwise you have to do different voices and I need to listen to a few audiobooks to see how different the voices need to be.

    1. fposte*

      I’m not hearing anything about rights there–if you’re not talking books you’ve written yourself or books that are so old they’re out of copyright (70 years past the death of the creator, in the U.S.) you need to purchase the rights to make audio of a book. And that’s usually pretty expense–those are basically reprint rights.

      1. Lore*

        Also, it’s pretty standard—especially with audiobooks being hot right now—for those rights to be sold with the initial contract, so there’s not a lot of loose audio rights to be had. But if you’re talking about getting hired as a narrator by audio producers, a lot of them have studios now where you go to record. So you’d want a good demo reel more than a home studio.

      2. foolofgrace*

        Actually you put yourself out there with an audition “tape” on the website for Audible (I think it’s ACX) and authors contact you if they want to hear more. Then you narrate a short section of their book and if they like it they hire you. I’m just antsy about investing in the equipment, but I think I’ll just have to jump in with both feet.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, sorry, I totally misunderstood! I do see people thinking they can just read books on YouTube sometimes. I’m glad yours is a more viable project. I don’t know anything about the equipment, but I’d love to hear how it goes with you on this.

        2. Lore*

          If you live in a city, your library may have bookable studios—the central branch of Brooklyn Public Library does for sure.

          1. SignalLost*

            The central library in Seattle does as well. My boyfriend booked some time there to record a podcast.

        3. Liz*

          You can probably record it for free at your library. We’ve got a studio with all of the things you’d probably need. It’s probably not good enough quality to actually be a finished product, but it would probably be fine for a demo.

      3. Teeth grinder*

        I think you could do practice recordings, to hear your own voice and “see” what you need to work on improving. But you’d have to destroy those recordings if the material isn’t out of copyright.
        Before audiobooks became popular for everyone, there used to be organizations that recorded – with volunteers – books for the visually impaired. This might be worth looking into, for the practice and feedback. Also, if this is just something you think might be fun, would it matter if you were paid?
        Do you have a friend who is an aspiring writer? Maybe you could work together, putting their material into audio format.
        I know there are professors who assign their own books in their own classes, or say students should buy the lecture notes. If there is even the possibility of a visually impaired student (including dyslexic?j wanting to take a class, the University must make sure the course materials are available for them. So it might be worth contacting a local university. (I know there are text-to-voice adaptive technology/programs, but most of them are dancing bears.) It might not pay much, if anything, but it would be a starting point.
        Good luck!

        1. Llellayena*

          The organizations to record books for the blind and dyslexic still exist. My dad was involved in one in NJ that used to be called Readings for the Blind, I’m not sure what they changed it to.

          1. Mimmy*

            It used to be called Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic. It’s now called Talking Book and Braille Center.

          2. Mimmy*

            Oooops, wrong organization! Recordings for the Blind is now called Learning Ally. I think you can volunteer to record books for them. (The NJ Talking Book & Braille Center is actually part of the National Library Service for the Blind & Handicapped)

            1. hermit crab*

              Yes, I was coming here to say exactly this! I volunteered at RFB&D/Learning Ally for several years, mostly recording science textbooks. It was a blast and I highly recommend it. There are studios in a bunch of cities and I think they also have remote opportunities – that was just becoming a thing when I stopped reading there about 5 years ago.

          3. Nancie*

            The Raleigh, NC area has the Triangle Radio Reading Service that reads newspapers and magazines over a special radio frequency. I bet they could put you in touch with the equivalent service in your area.

      4. Girl friday*

        When she does that, she could try YouTube and see if she gets any interest or feedback? I don’t know what state she lives in, but the School for the Blind often needs people to record textbooks and things.

    2. OhNo*

      Can you connect with a local books for the blind program? A friend of mine started volunteering with one not too long ago, and since they generally have the set up already, it would be an easy way to try it out (and maybe get some demo material) without having to drop a bunch of money up front.

      Also, there might be shared workspaces near you that already have a set up that you can use for a monthly or drop-in fee. I know there’s at least two in my area that include “recording space and equipment” on their list of offerings (both specifically mention it in relation to podcasts, but I can’t imagine the set up would be too different for book narration).

    3. OperaArt*

      I’ve done self-taped auditions, and some of the same principles apply. If you record at home, you need to be able to turn off any heating or air conditioning system you may have. They can be noisy. Your location needs to be as echo-free as possible. Many of my acquaintances who do voice over work use their closets. All of that fabric works well.

      1. Cassandra*

        A former colleague who also used to do radio suggested the interior of a parked car, because cars are built to dampen exterior noise.

        I tried it for a work project whose production values didn’t have to be amazing. The results were pretty impressive!

    4. Ranon*

      No experience personally, but if you want to jump in for practice Librivox is a platform that has volunteer readers of public domain books and volunteering for them might be good practice? You don’t have to be professional level, the books I’ve listened to have had readers is all sorts of levels of quality but they’re pretty delightful anyways.

    5. foolofgrace*

      Thank you, everyone, for your comments, which were very helpful. I doubt the library has a little studio but I’m going to check it out. Many eons ago I auditioned for what was then called Reading for the Blind and aced it, so that’s a good option. I have a walk-in closet I think would be good for reading out loud. Thanks again.

      1. Michio Pa*

        If you’re not beholden to books, there’s a pretty decent audience for quietly spoken words on YouTube: guided meditations, stories, kind words, ASMR, all kinds of things. Even if you don’t want to go down that route content-wise, there’s a big community of creators you could turn to for advice on recording equipment, spaces that block out sound, etc.

  5. otterbaby*

    Christmas cooking thread! What are your must-haves for Christmas dinner?

    Originally from Northern California, we always had barbecued turkeys (marinated in red wine!), sausage stuffing, homemade cranberries, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, sprouts, and rolls.

    Now that I live in Northern England, it’s turkey, gammon, mashed potatoes, sausage stuffing, roast potatoes, carrots/peas/corn, sprouts, cranberries, pigs in blankets, and Yorkshire puddings. So not really too dissimilar. But instead of eating around 4pm-5pm, it’s around 1pm.

    I usually make a gingerbread apple pie as well.

    What are your favourites? I love hearing about the regional differences.

    1. Aurora Leigh*

      I’m in Illinois and they’re seems to be a pretty even split between turkey families and ham families.

      I believe strongly in ham for Christmas dinner! My boyfriend’s family are turkey people, but he actually prefers ham, so we’re bringing a ham lol. Also au gratin potatoes. Blue cheese stuffed mushrooms are his favorite.

      We always have rolls and usually a green bean casserole as well. Generally a ton of cookies rather than pies.

      1. Luisa*

        We are also a ham family (IL residents with MI/IN roots). My grandmother’s strawberry sauce is required, too. Beyond that, my parents stick to pretty much the same menu as for Thanksgiving, which is fine, but personally I’d love to branch out more! I always offer to cook (and plan and shop), but my mom currently retains full control. Not much to do but eat and enjoy, I guess!

    2. SigneL*

      I’m not fond of turkey, so after the Thanksgiving extravaganza, I just can’t do it again for Christmas. I usually do steak (grilled outside – we’re in Texas) and this year we will also do salmon, for my husband who can no longer eat red meat. I always make homemade bread, corn pudding (a savory casserole, in spite of the name) and a delicious chocolate dessert. Really, after the homemade bread, no one cares much what else we have. It’s a great recipe!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        New England, and I usually do a roast prime rib for the same “meh, more turkey” reason.

    3. fieldpoppy*

      French-canadian ancestry Ontarian here: tourtiere (meat pies) with pickles on Christmas eve, possibly with a spread that includes ham if there are more people coming. Christmas dinner is the same as thanksgiving — turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, some kind of green thing that is a residual leftover from the 60s (in my family it’s a layered jello salad, in my ex’s it’s green bean casserole). Dessert = yule log.

    4. Llellayena*

      100% Italian branch of the family here makes trays and trays of manicotti. With homemade sauce. I live for that day…sigh.

    5. Lena Clare*

      Northern English with Spanish heritage here. Tell me, otterbaby: what do you think of mince pies and christmas cake, and more to the point, do you like Christmas cake with or without cheese??

      Our staples are Rose Elliott’s walnut paté en croute (recipe here -https://vegetarianforlife.org.uk/recipes/pies-and-pastries/rose-elliots-mushroom-pate-en-croute) and turkey, veggie gravy, roast potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, roast carrots and parsnips, and Brussels sprouts with butter and parsley.

      Pudding is always christmas pudding (it’s usually Guinness pudding which I make, but I haven’t had time this year so it’ll be shop-bought), with cinnamon and nutmeg ice cream, but we sometimes also do a pavlova or a trifle as well.

      We usually start off with m/cocktails and nibbles like sausages wrapped in bacon or veggie tapas, and end later on with mince pies and coffee.

      Oh my word I love Christmas food.

      1. Brrrrr*

        Thank you so much for the mushroom-pate-en-croute recipe link. As the only vegetarian at our Christmas meal this year I want to make something that everyone will enjoy and won’t take me hours of preparation, and this looks like a winner!

    6. WellRed*

      Ha! I read this as northern New England (where I am) and was confused by the Yorkshire pudding ; ). The menu us similar here, but ham is also popular. No pigs in blankets and I don’t know what gammon is.

      1. Lucy*

        Gammon is roast ham.

        In England, pigs in blankets are little sausages wrapped in bacon (streaky ie American) and baked. I think in the US pigs in blankets would be sausages in pastry?

    7. Hazelthyme*

      Our tradition (central NY, with roots in metro NY & New England) is Christmas Eve with the immediate family, and Christmas Day brunch/lunch with every friend and neighbor we can find:

      Christmas Eve: tourtiere, French onion soup, some kind of greens

      Christmas Day: there’s some variation, & our guests usually bring something, but the must-haves are strata, roast turkey or ham, more tourtiere, pickled herring, mulled wine, baked brie, and loads of fresh apples & tangerines. (There are always a few veggie sides too — shaved root vegetable salad & kale salad this year — but they vary a little depending on what looks good.)

      Oh, and the night we decorate the tree, we always make a big platter of Christmas nachos for dinner.

    8. Lady Jay*

      Midwesterner here, and maybe 10 years ago my mom started doing lasagna with a salad and bread (and something for dessert, of course). She wanted something a little simpler than the shebang cooked up over Thanksgiving.

      That said, Christmas MORNING must have cinnamon rolls!

    9. Nicole76*

      I usually make a ham, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, corn, green bean casserole, baked mac & cheese (homemade), stuffing, gravy, and some type of roll. We also pick up a rotisserie chicken for my step-daughter who doesn’t care for ham.

      For desserts, I make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and vary the other desserts yearly depending on what I’m craving. This year I’m planning to make a peanut butter chocolate pie and a pistachio cake.

      Also, last year I started making a three cheese grits casserole for breakfast on Christmas morning. It works well as a side for dinner as well. I left the link in my name in case anyone is interested in trying it. I never ate grits until I started making it, but boy is it tasty!

      1. Kuododi*

        I am in KY and we love us some cheese grits as well!!! At our family table one of our classic recipes is my sister’s roast brussel sprouts with bacon. We’ll usually do a smoked turkey, and a ham, plus Daddy will make jalapeno corn bread and a couple of types of pie . Have fun!!!

    10. SignalLost*

      We do Mexican. Enchiladas, tortilla soup, Spanish rice, and flan are our go-tos. We are not Mexican, my mother just got tired of making turkey and ham twenty years ago. She probably regrets it now; we’ll eat a hundred enchiladas and she makes everything by hand. I should call and find out when the assembly line starts. Getting a tortilla press a few years back helped.

    11. Nervous Accountant*

      I don’t celebrate Christmas and have travelled the last several years. However this year I will be home. I plan on making comfort food and treats for myself.

      There’s this frozen casserole made by Stouffers that I love.. will attempt the homemade version of it.

      Red lobster cheddar biscuits.

      A ribeye. This egg dish I make. (Not all in one day of course).

    12. Claire (Scotland)*

      Turkey, sage and onion stuffing, roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, roast parsnips, carrots, Brussels sprouts, gravy, bread sauce and cranberry sauce. And my aunt’s strawberry Pavlova for dessert.

      But the best food on Christmas Day is the orange, cranberry and cinnamon muffins my mum makes for breakfast.

        1. Claire (Scotland)*

          I believe it’s basically Nigella Lawson’s Christmas Morning Muffins (link in username) with a bit of tweaking by my mum. I know she uses more cinnamon than the recipe says, because we love cinnamon so much.

    13. Chuck*

      I live in the South and have a big family spread out over the region. More “traditional” Christmas foods we’ve had are roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, etc. and cobbler or pie for desert. But we’ve also had Christmases where my grandpa made a big shrimp boil, and one where we just made 9 or 10 pizzas with different toppings.

      Now that my sister and I live away from the rest of our family, we do Christmas Day by ourselves and make a big pot of chicken noodle soup. Since it’s just the two of us we don’t really get fancy.

    14. LNLN*

      I live in the Pacific Northwest and I like to cook salmon, asparagus and rice for Christmas dinner, served with a green salad and something sweet for dessert.

    15. Parenthetically*

      We do more “outside the box” dinners now for Christmas because we always have very traditional Thanksgiving dinners! In years past Christmas dinner was often ham, scalloped potatoes or twice-baked potatoes, some green vegetable side, some corn-based side (corn casserole or souffle, usually), homemade rolls, and pumpkin or pecan pie.

      This year, I think we’re doing a stuffed roast of pork, crispy English-style roast potatoes, Brussels and/or green beans, a nice bitter salad (escarole or similar), and a Black Forest gateau for dessert.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I went to do some last minute Christmas shopping today and got my Stollen. I know you can make your own, but I buy one. The other thing I have to have are Vanillakipferl biscuits, which are one of the traditional German/Austrian Christmas biscuits.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            But if there are, in fact, such things as mashed potato rolls, I need to make them and eat them immediately! Or, if necessary, invent them and eat them immediately.

            The takeaway here is that I now really want a mashed potato roll!

    16. Loopy*

      I don’t have a single dish that we make every year but I’m starting to slowly move towards that by requesting my fiance make mac and cheese for the second year in a row. So, let’s go with that as a start.

      I…have no idea what else we are eating though!!

    17. Extra vitamins*

      The only consistent dishes are desserts:
      Pecan fluff cookies
      Chocolate sugar cookies
      Stuffed roasted pears with brandy

      We’re in the Northwest

    18. CatMintCat*

      Rural Australia. Christmas is usually as hot as Hades so, while many Aussie families stick to the traditional hot Christmas lunch, we don’t. We have cold meat (ham, chicken, lamb), a wide variety of salads, and pavlova for dessert. Turkey is popular but, for what it costs, I expect something absolutely magical, and turkey just isn’t that magical.

      We usually do lunch rather than tea, and outside on the deck, unless it’s too blistering hot, in which case inside under the coolers where people are perched everywhere because i don’t have enough indoor seating for them.

    19. TurtleIScream*

      Midwest here. We always go out to the local Mediterranean restaurant. I figure it’s a lot closer to what Jesus family ate than traditional Christmas food. Plus it’s really good, and I don’t have to cook or clean!

      Breakfast is always monkey bread.

      Evening meal is simple apps and munchies. I might make shrimp bruschetta if I want to be fancy.

    20. Windchime*

      Back when I was a kid, we always had either ham or turkey. Mom would make it with all the fixings and it was a huge amount of work for her. Nowadays, I don’t do anything. We will often have a simple breakfast or brunch, and then snack on cheese and crackers and stuff like that all day. A friend sometimes has a big Christmas Eve party and serves fresh crab…mmmmmmmm.

      This year, I will be seeing my (adult) kids on the 23rd and we are having lasagna.

    21. Arts Akimbo*

      Southeastern USA here! My family does turkey, cornbread dressing, giblet gravy, and all our same Thanksgiving foods. But my mom married an Italian man, and his mom showed her how to make all these amazing pasta dishes their family has at Christmastime! Yay family unity!!

      My spouse’s family (also Southeastern US) doesn’t really do Christmas dinner, they do Christmas breakfast instead! Scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits, homemade preserves, and rice with redeye gravy! There is always date log candy, and his uncle’s homemade peanut butter fudge.

      My grandmother used to make all this candy for the holidays, and that was what I looked forward to the most! Fudge, divinity candy, and pecan pralines of astounding lightness. She had an unearthly gift with egg whites– her angel food cakes were the tallest I have ever seen anywhere, and her divinity candy was so incredibly puffy and perfect!

    22. Tau*

      German here, and Christmas Eve we do potato gratin with lamb’s lettuce salad and sausages (apparently a variation on the more traditional potato salad and sausages?) and meat fondue on Christmas Day. I think the traditional meal there would be goose with red cabbage and potato dumplings, but my family isn’t the hugest fan of goose.

      We don’t really do dessert beyond the typical-for-my-family quark with some form of fruit, but throughout the day there’ll be various traditional Christmas sweets available – Spekulatius, other Christmas biscuits like Zimtsterne, marzipan, Dominosteine, etc.

    23. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My sister in law always brought baked ziti …the pasta is an Italian ancestry thing, and also doubled as food for picky toddlers.
      I realized i miss it so i may be making it this year.

    24. Marion Ravenwood*

      Originally from Northern England (now living in London), and our Christmas dinner is roast turkey, ham roasted in cherry cola, roast potatoes, carrot and turnip mash, sprouts, pigs in blankets (mini sausages wrapped in bacon), stuffing balls, cranberry sauce and gravy. My husband wants Yorkshire puddings as well this year (we’re hosting for the first time). For starter we’re doing halloumi fries with yoghurt dip, and pudding will be mince pie tart – I’m the only one who likes Christmas pudding, so I’ve got myself a mini one which I intend to eat at some point over the festive season. And then cheese later.

      We eat about 3 PM, but that’s mainly because my family goes to the pub at lunchtime on Christmas Day (I don’t know if this is a thing elsewhere, but in the UK it’s pretty common for pubs to open for a couple of hours on Christmas Day) and don’t normally get back before 1.30. I think we’re quite unusual though as it seems most people eat earlier here.

    25. Garland not Andrews*

      Chiming in very late.
      I’m from New Mexico, USA and our tradition is pasole (soup made from pasole (nixtamalized corn or hominy), pork, red chile, and for many of us, pig’s feet) and of course tamale’s. And red chile, and green chile, and pinto beans, refried or whole, and rice, and sopapillas with honey. Ok now I’m just hungry!

  6. potluck*

    I’m going to a potluck holiday celebration and need some ideas! We’ll be about 20 and it needs to be something easy and easily transportable as I have about an hour of public transportation to my destination. What are some of your favorites?

    1. Aurora Leigh*

      A friend made Cracker Barrel Copycat Hashbrown Casserole and it was AMAZING! Sour Cream, Cream of Chicken soup, bag of frozen hashbrowns, and then cheddar cheese on top.

    2. Red Reader*

      Spinach artichoke dip, if you have a reheating option at the other end? I use the recipe off the six sisters stuff website and it’s divine. Grab a couple different types of crackers and a bag of tortilla chips to go along with.

    3. OhNo*

      Personally, I’m a big fan of potato-based dishes when there’s long travel involved. They’re pretty easy to heat up at the other end if that’s an option, and if it isn’t they still taste pretty good cold. Slow cooker scalloped potatoes are my go-to for potlucks, because you can make a vegan, gluten-free version and then just bring some additions (bacon, cheese, etc.) along to serve on the side for whoever wants them.

    4. fieldpoppy*

      Heh, I read the “midwestern” style casseroles and recoiled because all of my friends have some kind of food restrictions, and I know almost no one who could eat them, lol. I always go for something everyone can eat, vegans and all — like sliced roasted squash, greens and roasted pumpkin seeds. But this is very much a YMMV regional thing I think ;-).

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ll be bringing crockpot chicken biriyani… the vegetarian version is also tasty.
        @Potluck, it could be tricky on public transportation unless you have a small InstantPot — that locking lid with a handle is really convenient!

    5. Llellayena*

      If bringing dessert is an option, apple cake, cinnamon streusel or something similarly cake-y is easy to transport. If not, my go-to is Hot Jezebel:
      1 jar (approx 8-10 oz) apricot preserves (or any yellow or orange colored preserves)
      3 tbsp Dijon mustard
      3 tsps horseradish
      Pepper to taste
      Mix these and transport in a plastic container, when you get there pour it over 8oz of whipped cream cheese and serve with crackers.

    6. BRR*

      I make a black bean salad for a lot of pot lucks. I’ll transport it in freezer bags and it’s nice that it doesn’t need to be reheated.

    7. Not A Manager*

      Pasta salads hold well and are good at room temperature. My favorite is cheese tortellini, pesto, and large shreds of good quality parmesan. Be sure not to overcook the tortellini.

      You can add anything you like to this basic recipe. I always add thinly sliced red onion, red bell pepper, and black olives (kalamata or nicoise are good, or just the canned black ones). If you feel like getting some marinated artichoke hearts, they add a nice flavor but you have to cut them in half and pull off any tough leaves or bits of choke that are still in them.

      Costco carries all of these ingredients if you’re cooking for a large group.

    8. SignalLost*

      My go to for potlucks is a roasted beet salad. 1 kilo medium beers, boiled till they’re done, peeled and quartered or sixthed, 1 cup plain yogurt, 1 clove garlic, minced, 2/3 cup of mint, 1.5 tablespoons lemon juice, and I think a tablespoon of tahini. Put everything but the beets in a cuisinart and chop the hell out of it. I usually serve the beets and the dressing separately. And the dressing is pretty much to taste. If something is too strong, add more yogurt; if something isn’t strong enough, add more of that. The final flavor should be pretty blended – you get yogurt and mint with hints of nut and garlic and lemon but they’re not overpowering. Everyone bitches about beets, but I rarely wind up with leftovers.

    9. Bibliovore*

      I’m going to one tonight. I am bringing smoked salmon, pumpernickle bread, creme fraiche, capers and shredded egg yolk. I am bring a cedar plank and will plate it when I get there.

    10. Loopy*

      I’m so tapped out this year that for the potluck I’m just making cookie butter dessert dip. Because cookie butter is delicious is all forms. I just Googled a recipe and basically it’s just throwing stuff together and serving with graham crackers and/or pretzel sticks!

    11. Anono-me*

      I grew up in potluck country. I have probably a dozen church cookbooks with special section just for potluck dishes.

      For easy transportation, set up, and low risk of spoiling here are my favorites.

      Sheet cake with frosting or brownies.

      -Veggies marinated in Italian dressing. Multiple bags of chopped carrots, celery, broccoli and cauliflower mix with bottled Italian dressing and refrigerate overnight.

      -Bean salad. At least three different cans of beans, rinsed and well drained, about 1/2 bottle of Catalina dressing, 2 cups chunky shredded cheddar 1 cup diced crunchy vegetable (celery or onion or green pepper etc.) Serve as a side or as a chip dip.

      Chocolate covered Bacon. Make crispy bacon in the oven (so that it stays flat) drizzle with dark chocolate and sprinkle with good salt or minced nuts.

      The best potluck advice that I have ever received was to take my meal contribution in a serving container with serving utensils that I didn’t want back. It means that I don’t have to wait until everyone has eaten to lug home a (hopefully empty) dirty dish, nor do I have to worry about something that I do like getting misplaced. (I do label the serving dish as safe to reassign or discard.)

      I also bring a recipe card along that I display in front of my dish, that way people with food concerns can know what is in it.

      Have fun.

    12. The Messy Headed Momma*

      3 – 5 very good cheeses, charcuterie meats & nice crackers. You can assemble it all there easily.

    13. Isotopes*

      I recently tried out some antipasto skewers and they went over really well. Cherry tomatoes, marinated mini bocconcini, fresh basil leaves, olives, salami, and artichoke hearts. I had some nice bamboo skewers that were about 4″ and it was a perfect size. I skewered one of each ingredient in the order I’ve listed in the ingredients. For the salami, you can either use a thin-sliced, or I got a small whole salami and cut pieces that were about 1/2″ thick, cut that into 4, worked like a charm. The nice thing is that you can mix it up a little bit, too – I had a few without salami for vegetarians, and a few without salami OR bocconicini as a vegan option. Make sure you prep the vegan first, then the vegetarian, then the full skewers to avoid contamination. Or if you know that you don’t have any vegetarians or vegans attending, just make a whole batch with everything.

      You’ll want to make 2 per person. It takes a little bit of prep time, but it’s so easy (I had people asking for the recipe and it was just “buy everything and put it on a stick, ta da” which is always nice) and it travels well.

      There are all kinds of other combinations you can do, too (if you’re into Pinterest, there are loads of different combos with pictures).

  7. Amber Rose*

    Hello everyone. I am the most hungover/maybe still drunk and I’m pretty sure these are my last words. (Not. I’ll live once I can crawl out of bed and eat a granola bar.)

    I have an actual question. See, I don’t make friends easily and I dislike going out so I always rely on online communities for human connection. But I’ve kind of lost the ones I was a part of and since then I’ve been feeling lost and like I have nowhere to go to just ramble and say hi to people. I’m lonely. It sounds so silly it took me a long time to figure out but there it is.

    I’ve been watching a lot of online videos and stuff because TV sucks and Netflix is no good either (I’m picky) and kind of playing with the idea of starting a Vlog or something. Similar to how online communities used to work for me, I could ramble and maybe people would chat with me in comments.

    But I have a lot of anxiety about judgment* so, strangers of the internet who are not my supportive and biased husband, is this a terrible idea?

    *Trolls don’t bother me. I have a fear of people hearing ideas or interests of mine and being actually sarcastic and dismissive and thinking I’m a freak. Making this post took courage.

    1. Radical Edward*

      Sounds great to me! I am a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to trying new things on social media these days, so the only platform I am familiar with that might be of interest to you is Instagram. I’m sure other folks will have more suggestions, but for me IG is great because I can share my photos (which are never of people) and tell stories and mostly, it’s others I already know who comment, but it’s also really easy to reach out to others that you follow. I have slowly started enjoying small interactions with strangers and am learning a lot about so many different subjects! So there’s definitely something out there for you, it might take some trial and error to find the platform (and/or community) that suits you best. Good luck!

    2. Nicole76*

      I think it depends on how much negative comments will get to you, because unfortunately you WILL get them as that’s the nature of posting things publicly. I think it’s worth giving it a try and seeing what you think, though. You can always stop if it feels like it’s making you feel worse instead of better. Also, I’d love to check it out if/when you decide to start so please share the link!

    3. Slartibartfast*

      Hello fellow anxious lonely person who misses their online communities :) If you do this, post a link and I’ll come chat in the comments.

    4. Teeth grinder*

      Do you have any hobbies? There are groups for anything online.
      I like Ravelry for fiber arts – knitting, weaving, crochet, sewing, even quilting and dyeing (yarn or fabric). They have discussion forums (should that be “fora” for the Latin purists?) on anything and everything; you can track and show off your projects; there’s information and reviews about crafting materials. Some of the discussion groups are strictly on topic, while others become true friend groups.
      But there are a zillion other sites for other subjects.
      You might even find a group you would like to attend in person. I found a wonderful crafting bee through Meetup.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Ugh!! I fell in the bathtub Thurs. night and fractured four ribs. Never had a broken/fracture in my life except when I fell in the driveway about 20 years ago and broke my tailbone. Count on me to get two injuries that they can’t do anything about.

  8. Stressed Gifter*

    Does anyone else find gift giving incredibly stressful? I have ADHD and seasonal affective disorder. I want to feel good about finding gifts but inevitably I start too late, agonize too long about what to get, forget to order things, don’t get to the post office in time…I DREAD this part of Christmas so much. I know what I’d advise someone else to do: start months earlier, lower your standards, write down ideas, put notes on your calendar. It doesn’t stick though. I was in tears getting something picked and sent for an out of state relative two nights ago. I was so angry with myself for putting me through this again! I’ve been so successful at treating and coping with my ADHD and SAD symptoms but this issue feels intractable. I try do things differently but the results don’t change. :(

    1. MommaCat*

      Three words: Amazon gift cards. I just can’t deal with shipping things, so my far flung family get gift cards to their emails around Thanksgiving so they can take advantage of Black Friday deals. This both takes care of about half of the presents I deal with, and gives me a different deadline than the rest of them. Hope this helps, from a fellow ADHD-er.

      1. SigneL*

        Yes, this. If I have to stand in line to mail stuff, it just doesn’t happen. And yes, I send them early so people can shop the sales.

    2. fposte*

      What if one of the things you did differently was you didn’t give Christmas gifts? Dial back the list, give whenever throughout the year instead, whatever. Seasonal packages are not the measure of you as a person.

      1. Stressed Gifter*

        God I have tried. I’m down to my out of state adult child, brother’s family and my mom. Child is easy. Brother is creative and sends several family oriented gifts that are always fun and creative and won’t stop. I just can’t keep up. I no longer send his kids birthday gifts so he did stop those. My mother is hard because she doesn’t need anything but every year she gives me me and all my kids cash so I don’t feel like I can say let’s not exchange gifts. She came into money late in life and loves giving it away. Already do a family activity rather than gifts with other adult children who live locally. Husband and I don’t exchange gifts.

        But then there’s things like a gift for my sweet student worker who brought me cookies and a box of tea on her last day before the break, the cleaning lady at work…each year these things rose up like a series of challenges to remember and deal with and I seem to only be able to face them one at a time. It’s bizarre. I’m better than this in other facets of my life. I just fall apart with this.

        1. fposte*

          I’m not saying cancel the exchange–I’m saying not give gifts, at least not at Christmas. Send them a nice note appreciating them, if you feel you must do something. You don’t need to give a gift to your student worker or to the cleaning lady at work (and if you do, that’s the kind of situation gift cards are made for).

          Think about the fact that when I said “don’t give Christmas gifts,” you still couldn’t conceive of it as letting yourself off the hook no matter what other people did. What if you let yourself off the hook without waiting for other people?

        2. Natalie*

          Regarding your mom specifically – gifts don’t need to be an exchange! I have older relatives that give cash gifts but very explicitly do not want anything. They give because they enjoy it, not because they are hoping for some kind of trinket from other people in exchange.

          You don’t need to decide today, but in the new year really sit with the idea of not giving gifts. I give almost no gifts, except to a couple of people in my life for whom it’s really important, and I love it.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, I feel like Stressed Gifter is stuck in a mode where other people’s choices are determining her actions–that as long as somebody else gives a gift, she has no right to opt out. But of course she has a right! And I suspect her gift recipients really wouldn’t want to be making her this stressed, either.

            I also have friends with whom I “exchange” gifts, in that periodically we give each other something, but almost never at the same time, and any relationship to a holiday is strictly nominal (like, the Christmas present can come anytime throughout the year). And then I have one friend I usually give holiday gifts to and then sometimes she gives me a craft she’s made whenever she does a nice one that’s suited, and sometimes she doesn’t. And it’s all fine. There are plenty of ways to do holidays beyond the a-gift-for-a-gift approach.

            1. Stressed Gifter*

              Thank you for your thoughtful answers, fposte and Natalie! I completely agree that I’m stuck in a mode that’s not working for me but I still can’t seem to get out of it. I think it’s that giving gifts really matters to me. I’d love to be someone who could do that and do it well and graciously. I’m so touched when other people do it for me. My SAD causes a lot of social anxiety and I just feel awful when someone remembers me with a gift and I can’t/didn’t reciprocate. It’s worst in the winter but I still feel bad at other times of year when it’s someone’s birthday and I didn’t remember to call, let alone send or bring a gift. I’ve just tried to let it be known that I don’t do birthday remembrances. My friends who would remember my birthday each year have given up. Bleh.

              It’s discouraging that I’ve cut back and cut back who I exchange gifts with, not only at Christmas but all year, even when it’s been awkward, and I still can’t seem to handle the very few remaining ones. Ditto on the social events. I have to really limit how many I can do in December, and I’ve nearly lost touch with our friends from our old town, about 70 miles away, because I’ve given up on attending their holiday events or even their birthday events. It’s too much for me to handle, which seems ridiculous given the other things I can handle in my life.

              I don’t think this would matter as much if I was male, but I’m female and there is that social expectation, and I feel it keenly.

              1. valentine*

                It sounds like you are creating the pressure. Do the gift card idea. Go Visa if they don’t do Amazon, although they can always use those to buy presents for others. You can reset what makes you feel worthy and the sooner, the better. You don’t have to keep adding people to an endless list or to always reciprocate in kind. Give the cleaning lady a raise every year in January or during her anniversary month (whichever’s easiest for you). Giving the student something may create a vicious cycle of obligation you’d both secretly love to drop. For any complaints, say you’re not well and you had to focus on your health.

                Imagine you cross gift buying off your lift right now. Wouldn’t you feel better? Give yourself the gift of stopping now and, next year, looking at why this is a cudgel you use on yourself.

              2. JSPA*

                If you have money but not time and attention span and energy: people may not be wildly thrilled if you donate to a charity in their honor, but they generally won’t complain (though they might cut back on their own gift-giving). Someone who loves books gets a donation to a literacy effort; someone who loves a particular animal, a rescue or support outfit for that animal, etc. The great thing is that even if you’re wrong (they much prefer the OTHER Monarch Butterfly Education group), good will still come of it…and you’ll be told what you should have gotten instead, which means you’ll get it right the next year.

                One caution–don’t let them “harvest” (and possibly sell on) the recipient’s full name and address.

                The exceptions are kids (but a promise of a visit to the museum works fine), relatives known to be hurting for cash, and people who may well be short on cash (the aide and the cleaning woman at work, quite possibly). They are the most likely to really appreciate a gift card or gift cash tucked in a holiday card.

              3. Koala dreams*

                Is it gift giving in general, or is it mostly the stress of hitting a specific date? If it’s the later, try to change it up a bit. Christmas is a pretty stressful time of the year, especially if you go shopping in those big crowded shopping malls, maybe it will be easy to do the gift giving during january, or the summer months or something like that. Or you could turn the birthday thing around and give everyone gifts on your birthday. Like people do with cake, but for gifts.

                As for cards, I find that can be pretty difficult nowadays. Cards are not really a mode of communication outside of certain ritual situations. Cut yourself some slack! Maybe e-mails or phone calls would work better for you?

        3. anonagain*

          Are you allowed to give the cleaning lady or the student worker cash? If so, I think a card with cash is a really, really good gift. And when I say card, I don’t mean a $5 fancy pants card either. I have a bunch of different designs of blank note cards that I use for everything. Birthdays, weddings, thank you cards, babies, Christmas, holidays that aren’t Christmas. Everything but condolences basically. I don’t have the energy to care if it’s not seasonal or whatever.

          I keep one blank card with an envelope in my planner at all times, because I totally forget this stuff.

          Also, I never got a gift in all my years as a student worker.

      2. Cats On A Bench*

        This is how I feel! When I see something that makes me think of a specific person, I get it for them. That feels good. I shouldn’t need a special time of year to be thoughtful. Feeling like I HAVE to get a gift for someone just because it’s a certain time of year (even though I can’t think of anything they’d like or would even need) makes me hate this time of year. I become a Scrooge. I also don’t like receiving gifts that are clearly chosen because the giver felt obligated. I’d really rather get nothing. Just getting people’s time these days is hard so it’s a gift in and of itself. I like spending time with people and eating out with them way more than this whole gift exchange trap we’re in, but I have to work hard at not sounding like an old grouch this time of year. Thanks for letting me vent!

    3. Teeth grinder*

      It’s stressful for me this year, for sure. I was making quilted throws for everyone, and my sewing machine is throwing a temper tantrum. (Thread is shredding and breaking a LOT.) I had taken her in for a general clean & adjust in November, and lost three sewing days. Three weeks later, this. The technician is only in the shop three days per week, so I lost three days *again*, and she wasn’t actually FIXED.
      Even if they actually get it right on Monday, there just isn’t enough time left to finish all the quilts, and I can’t give one cousin a quilt and the other two pot holders. (Yes, nine or ten days actually do make the difference. All the piecing is already done; there’s just the quilting and binding left.)
      So, they don’t know they were supposed to be getting quilts, but I feel like a failure just giving audiobook coupons. I mean, I think a gift membership from Libro is a good gift, but a printed certificate to choose your own books just doesn’t have the same gift-opening impact as a quilt, does it?

      1. Llellayena*

        As someone who regularly gives wedding quilts at the 1 or 2 year anniversary (after planning to give it at the wedding), look at it as you’ve finished your shopping for next year! If they don’t know they’re getting it, they can’t miss it this year and they’ll love it next year!

        1. Teeth grinder*

          And if the marriage breaks up before you give them the quilt, you have a quilt ready for the next happy occasion!

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I was having trouble with my sewing machine shredding and snapping thread, and it turned out I had the needle in backwards. Turned it around and the problem went away.

        Long shot, but worth a try maybe?

      3. Not A Manager*

        Oh my goodness! I’d love to get a handmade throw, and I wouldn’t care at all if it came on January 15 instead of December 25. Just give your cousins a pretty card with a “coming soon” note inside.

      4. Observer*

        First of all, the card actually sounds pretty awesome. But secondly, if you’re late with those throws, NO ONE is going to care. Just let people know.

        Anyone who is going to be offended should go off your gift list. I mean, come on – this is a one of a kind gift, and it’s huge amount of work. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that.

    4. Not A Manager*

      I find gift-giving incredibly stressful, yes. Mostly it’s performance anxiety about not getting it right. But anything that adds to the process – packing the box, addressing it properly, getting to the post office – drastically increases the chances that no gift will be forthcoming. And then I feel even more terrible.

      Amazon and online retailers that offer free shipping have been my saviors. I still need to find the right thing, but at least I don’t have to schlepp from mall to mall looking for it. And when I do find it, it takes me about 5 minutes total to get it paid for, gift wrapped and sent.

      1. Stressed Gifter*

        Agreed with all you said, although in some ways Amazon Prime allows for more procrastination time…I have found myself looking for anything at all that can arrive on time two days before Christmas. Did a little better with that gift this year.

    5. Relly*

      Can you get people to provide you with wish lists? We’ve started doing this in my family and it seriously helps. It feels weird and presumptuous giving out your own list, but it’s such a relief working from everyone else’s.

      Another idea: is someone in your family really good at gift giving? My mom’s brilliant, and generally has ideas to spare. Ask Uncle Jeff what he thinks Aunt Marie wants this year.

      Barring all of that, what helps me a lot is reframing it. You mentioned anxiety and SAD, so it may be that you’re someone like me, who holds yourself to a much higher standard than you would anyone else. If your sister said “I didn’t know what to get you, here’s an Amazon gift card” would you think she was a horrible person? No, you’d be touched that she got you something and sympathetic about how hard gift shopping is. You’d hope that she didn’t exhaust herself worrying about your present. So maybe it’s okay for you to get _her_ a gift card to Amazon, and to not agonize about it, either.

      1. Stressed Gifter*

        Thank you, Relly. I’m going to ask my mom what she’d like. My husband actually loves gift giving and handles most of it for our kids’ birthdays, and for our young son now that the other kids are grown (we don’t do gifts with our adult kids, something I spearheaded). He will spend waaaaaay more money than we can afford on gifts, which we’ve worked on, but he’s good at seeing things throughout the year and squirreling them away. But even he has been stumped on my brother’s family and my mom.

    6. Loopy*

      What about establishing annual memberships/subscriptions for people? That way you can just renew each year. Or something like online classes for their interest/hobby- no shipping and you can just sign them up and they can enjoy whenever they want. These might be easy tradition gifts, that you can just keep getting them. I know I get used to things like Amazon Prime and do hope I get it re-gifted each year. Having memberships and subscriptions they enjoy might be a great option for a renewable gift!

    7. Extra vitamins*

      Some years everyone gets the same gift. Everyone gets a tree ornament. Or everyone gets a wind-up toy. The Year of Everyone Gets Fancy Mustard was actually liked by the most people, which I did not expect. I usually ship directly from wherever I’m ordering, even if it costs more that way. I’m willing to pay something to reduce my stress.

    8. Observer*

      Well, maybe give yourself more practical advice ;)

      “I should start earlier” is one idea to toss. Sure it’s a good idea, but it’s not happening. But you CAN lower your standards, and if you find yourself running really late gift cards a GREAT – especially since you can send most of the val email – which means no worries about getting to the post office. And you can still get something personalized, because there are SOOOO many places that do these.

      Amazon gives you everything, but if you want to be a bit more targeted, you can do clothes (specific types, even) music, books, hobby shops, etc.

    9. Windchime*

      I find gift giving insanely stressful. It’s why I usually hate the whole month of December, because it’s just one huge, stressful, expensive month. I’ve been talking about changing for years and this year I’m doing it. I’m buying one nice gift for each of my adult children, and some books for my little baby grand-niece. That’s it. No stocking stuffers, no gift exchanges, no gifts for siblings or co-workers or friends. It has made such a difference! Instead of being stressed and upset and broke, I’ve been enjoying my Christmas tree and get-togethers with family and cookies and Hallmark movies.

    10. WhiteWalkerFromTjeWall*

      The past few years, I’ve donated things in people’s names to a charity. I sponsor some kids, and the organization I use also has a gift catalogue that lets you donate goats, or bees, through warm coats, classroom supplies and medical supplies to larger things like helping to drill a well or build a new school. I try to match the gift to the person….my mom is a retired nurse, so I might give vaccinations or stocking a medical clinic for her, or stock a classroom for my retired teacher dad. 15 to 20 minutes in front of the computer and I’ve gotten gifts, people in need get help, and I get a charitable deduction on my taxes! Nice and easy.

    11. Kat*

      I don’t know that this will help any with the family gifts, but you mentioned others who give you gifts and you want to reciprocate.

      Some day, in the spring or summer when SAD isn’t dragging you down as much, and find one or two general gifts. Something that won’t expire, that is generally popular. Buy a dozen or so – more than you think you’ll need. Wrap them in some paper that could work for any sort of holiday/event – gold or silver works well – and put blank tags on them. Find a place to store them that you hopefully won’t forget, and whenever you run into a situation where you want to give someone outside the family a gift in return, (hopefully) rather than having to stress about finding something and wrapping it and all the little details, you can use these, that only need a name written on them. Any small stress you can save yourself is good.

    12. Tau*

      I sympathise on this one, as someone with Asperger’s who has Problems with executive function.

      Here’s an idea: is it possible for you to give a gift that’s less physical, something like “over Christmas/the next time we see each other I’ll take you out to a nice meal and an evening out”? For a while, my mother and I had the tradition that we’d go shopping together the week before Christmas and finish by having tea and cake in a nice cafe. I loved it – I lived in another country so didn’t get to see her much – and it would have absolutely worked as a Christmas gift for me. In general, since Christmas gift-giving is basically trying to say “I love you and care about you and want to do something special for you”, is there some way you can communicate that message without the “select, buy and ship a physical gift” part?

    13. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Mail order off my family’s amazon wish lists saved me.
      But I still end up last minute Louie.

    14. Public Sector Manager*

      Definitely the gift card idea that others have mentioned!

      If you want to get gifts, I’ve got my routine down for the holidays. I usually go to an aggregator, like DodoBurd or Wirecutter, where they have links to cool gift ideas and they frequently link to the Amazon page that has those items. I order in batches based on my plans for the year and for anything I don’t want to wrap, I select the gift wrapping (which is generally a holiday bag from Amazon). If I’m staying home with my wife and son, I have everything sent to the house. If we’re going to my folks, I’ll have everything sent there. For anyone out of the area, they just get it direct from Amazon.

      Our gifts make it to our destination before we do. It takes a lot of the stress out of shopping.

  9. Washi*

    Tl;dr do I own my husband going to therapy for my depression?

    Slightly longer version. I’ve been going through a depressive episode for about 7 months, which I can feel improving substantially over the past few months, partly due to my own efforts and partly probably from getting a thyroid condition diagnosed and under control. I did therapy for a few months, found some things helpful, but my therapist wasn’t a great fit and I broke up with her a couple months ago. Since then I’ve been doing a lot of reading books about anxiety/depression and journaling, which I’ve found really helpful. (Also the books explain stuff much better than my therapist ever did. I finally understand what she was getting at when she would respond to me “that’s a thought” or “I think you need to feel your way through it.”) But my husband is still understandably worried about me and really wants me to go back to therapy. I don’t want to at all -it’s expensive, time consuming, and stressful- but I wonder if I owe him that peace of mind after all he’s done to support me? If this is part of being a good partner, I guess I could go for his sake, even though I don’t want to for myself. Thoughts?

    1. fieldpoppy*

      Thanks for sharing this, Washi — I’m sorry you are going through all of this. I guess what I would wonder about is what it is your husband is seeing in you that makes him worried? Does he see the progress or is it more quietly held to you? I think that’s the conversation, not whether you “owe” him therapy. I think it’s reasonable for him to be asking whether you are getting the support you actually need, and it might be useful to investigate for yourself a little bit more about why you don’t want to do therapy. (Not saying you should). Does it feel to him like this is a pause in a bigger issue that he is hoping you will do work on WHILE you’re feeling better? Do you still seem to be struggling to him? How does that match your own experience of yourself?

      1. fieldpoppy*

        Also, I know how hard it is to find a therapist who is a fit and how stressful that is — I really HEAR you on that. (I found one I liked and then she started dating a good friend of mine!!!! How’s that for drama?) I’m just wondering if it might be worth exploring — for YOU — finding one who matches you WHILE you’re feeling better, to ensure this isn’t cyclic?

      2. Sparrow*

        Going off of this, I’m wondering if your husband wants you to restart therapy because he feels like he’s being your therapist in addition to your husband. Even if you tell him you’re doing better and nothing his fault, I would imagine a loving partner would feel like he should be trying to cheer you up, worrying about how you’re doing, listening to you talk about what you’re learning from your books, and that load would start to weigh on him after awhile. Even though finding a new therapist is hard an expensive, I imagine it might be a service to you and your husband to have a professional involved.

    2. OhNo*

      Ooh, that’s a tough one. On the one hand, it might be worth trying again, because if you found the right therapist you might be able to make even more progress and it would ease your husband’s mind. On the other hand, if you’re sure (or pretty sure) that it won’t work for you, why waste the money?

      Is there any chance you could talk him through what you’re doing now to work on it on your own? It could be he’s just worried because he doesn’t realize that you’re working on it, or doesn’t realize how helpful what you’re doing right now is compared to therapy. If you explain, it might ease his concerns a bit. And even if it doesn’t, it might help you figure out where his concern is coming from. Maybe he sees a trend in your behavior that you haven’t noticed yet, or has some other reason to be concerned.

      If you do want to do occasional therapy just to ease his mind, you might want to look into one of the online therapy programs that are done through skype or whatever. From what I’ve seen, those are cheaper and easier to set up as occasional drop-in type sessions. They might be less stressful and time-consuming, too.

    3. Clever Name*

      This is a difficult question. I mean, yes, your husband cares about you and is understandably worried. But I’d imagine your depression affects him in other ways too. Are you able to be emotionally available and supportive to him right now? I’d guess no. Is he perhaps shouldering more than his fair share of running the household at the moment? Is he maybe forgoing doing things with his friends because he doesn’t want to leave you alone? Maybe you two had a shared hobby you don’t have the energy to do right now and he misses that. What if your husband is exhausted and at the end of his rope being a caretaker and is considering if being married to you is really worth the struggle? Would you tell him and yourself that getting help is too expensive and too much trouble?

      I apologize for being blunt and harsh. I think depression can swirl around a person like a vortex and suck them down to the bottom of a dark hole with you alone at the center. So yeah, maybe you do owe it to your husband to get help, but more importantly you owe it to yourself.

    4. The Redshirt*

      I’d say that you owe it to yourself to give therapy another chance. Find another counselor and give it a shot. Your city probably has professionals who are free/paid on sliding scale if money is an issue. If you’re experiencing depression, that health condition might be affecting how you interpret the value of therapy. (that you don’t want to go at all).
      IMHO This is also part of bring a good partner. Speaking as a someone in a relationship who also manages depression.

      1. Carol of the Bells*

        I would give it another try with a different therapist as well if I were in your shoes. Books are great resources and a good therapist, who is a good fit for you, will be able to take the info from the books and expand on it in ways that can be meaningful to you. A good run in therapy may get you much further down your road faster as well. Not that you wouldn’t get there on your own.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yup. You owe it to yourself to get therapy, but on a related note, you owe it to your spouse to be a good partner to them. If not getting therapy means you’re not being a good partner, then you are kinda letting down your side of the deal, as well as maybe going to end up single.

      3. Julia*

        This. I didn’t like my first therapy experience at all, but now I see a therapist online on and off when I need her. It’s relatively cheap, I can “take” her with me even when I move, and I don’t need to commute anywhere.
        Meanwhile, I also found meditation really helpful, and recommend the Calm app.

    5. Heynonnyanonanon*

      Another option would be for the two of you to go to couples therapy together, to talk about his concerns and more generally about the situation. And your husband could be the one to identify two or three therapist you might want to work with, do the initial phone interview, and then you two go together for an initial visit to see who you agree on.

    6. Rhymes with Mitochondria*

      Try another therapist. Just because the first one wasn’t a good fit doesn’t mean the next one will be a bust, too. I have kids in therapy and finding a good match is so key to making it work. Given his concern and request, I would recommend another try.

    7. Wishing You Well*

      Yes, give therapy another try, even if it’s not long term. The right kind of stress can be very productive and move you forward.
      But also get physically active. This is a must. Start really small and build on your successes. Humans weren’t meant to sit much at all. Consider a SAD light for winter, too.
      I really hope you’re on a permanent upswing!

    8. Zona the Great*

      Ugh this is hard. Finding a counselor you click with is hard. But I do think you owe it to him to keep trying. You owe it to yourself too. You wouldn’t start treating a physical illness yourself after a bad doctor experience would you? Trust your spouse that you might not be the best judge of things and let him help. I lived in a home where my dad refused to find help and it ruined the family. We never recovered.

      1. Addy*

        I wonder if you might consider couples counseling instead? My husband went through a period of really difficult mental illness, and therapy was quite helpful to him and he’s doing much better. But I, as the supportive spouse, didn’t have the same experience of him getting better, and was really worried/anxious about him, even when he was doing substantially better. So we went to couple counseling for a few months, just to deal with his mental illness in the context of our relationship, and I cannot tell you how helpful it was.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This might be a really good idea. I am thinking that he could learn to clearly articulate what his concern is, “I am worried about you because you sleep to 1 pm every day/still don’t seem like your bubbly self/whatever.” That is much clearer than, “I am concerned about what is happening.”

          And it could be that he is wondering where he fits into your life story right now, so that would be a good thing to talk about.

          I know from my own life when I do a bunch of reading on stuff, I am the only one who has learned, the non-readers around me are way back at square one. I have progressed to square ten and they have no reference points at all to what I am thinking about and doing.

        2. Washi*

          Thanks so much to everyone for the replies! (Not sure where I want to put this, so am sticking it here)

          I like the idea of going to couples counseling for a bit as a first step; I can definitely feel a need for that, and I think that will help clarify some of the next steps and how to make sure I am supporting my husband and meeting his needs.

          And just for some clarification, I was always quite high functioning even during the worst of times (never skipped work, generally kept up with chores and friends, exercised every day etc) and for the past few months my behavior has been about 90% back to normal. I clean, I see friends 3-4 times per week, and we talk about my husband’s feelings just as much as my own. It’s more that if I am ever upset about anything, even something I would have found upsetting regardless, my husband gets really freaked out and afraid that it will all go back to the way it was before. I’m feeling a bit scrutinized/pathologized, and he’s understandably gunshy after how difficult the summer was, so I think couples’ counseling would be a great way to address that, and I’m open to the possibility that I might change my mind about individual therapy as a result.

    9. Madge*

      Officially, no, you don’t owe it to your husband to get back into therapy. You are your own person. But part of being in a relationship is taking care of yourself and listening to your partner. This is a health issue and it sounds to me like you still need some help. But weekly therapy isn’t your only option. You could find someone to check-in with monthly, or use an online or video therapist. You could talk to a clergy person and formulate an improvement plan. If your employer has an EAP you could talk to someone there. You could talk to your husband about all you’re doing and how you feel you’re improving and set some quantifiable goals and determine an event point that will signal you need more outside help. But also consider that this could be one of those situations where you don’t realize how bad you’re doing until you’re outside of it. Your husband may have a clearer perspective of how you’re doing that you do right now.

    10. Snow Drift*

      Does he know how unhelpful you found it to be? If he’s pushing it so hard, is it because he personally found it helpful, or because he just thinks that’s “how it’s done” for your condition?

      My husband and I both found therapy useless, so bonding with each other about that was a big emotional unburdening.

    11. Koala dreams*

      Maybe your husband is the one needing the therapy? It can be quite hard to see a close family member becoming ill in a serious illness, and obviously you are not in a position to give him support about that. It could be helpful for your husband to find an outside professional to talk things through with and discuss his worries.

  10. Laurie87*

    Christmas gift ideas for older grandparents? They’re actively getting rid of stuff because they’re downsizing to a smaller apartment. They don’t travel or go out much and have enough money to buy anything they need. (Sorry not many details- trying to hurriedly post before I have to put my phone away for a The Nutcracker performance).

    1. Thursday Next*

      Do you live close enough to take them to a museum, restaurant, or performance? Often the gift of your time and company is what’s most appreciated.

      1. Wishing You Well*

        I agree. Spend time with them. Ask them about their life experiences. They won’t be here forever and any charming or hair-raising events they went through will disappear with them. My grandparents told me some great stories and I’m grateful to have memories of THEIR memories!

      2. The Original K.*

        Co-sign the experience gift! I went through this with my grandparents too, when they were still alive – none of them needed or wanted anything (and if they legit needed anything, they’re all the sort to just go get it. Like if my grandfather realized “I need a certain kind of hammer for this project,” he would get up and go to the hardware store in that moment), and I did very well with getting them tickets, taking them to dinner or making them dinner, etc. I’m giving my dad an experience this year too, and I’ve done that for my mother for the last four or five years.

      3. Laurie87*

        I live 2 hours away so relatively close- sometimes my work schedule can be difficult (2 jobs) but I’m definitely going to look into what I can put together for an experience gift that fits within their likes and mobility restrictions. That is pretty important especially since I won’t always live within a few hours of them

    2. Robin Q*

      This may not be their style, but the best gift we ever got my grandparents was a donation to a charity that meant a lot to them.

      1. So glad I'm out of there*

        My gift to my mom every year is “dinner and a show”. The show may be a community theatre show, so tix are $15ish (some years it might be more fancy!) and then my husband and I take her out somewhere fancy for dinner. The dinner is often on a different day, just to avoid scheduling issues. We’re lucky that we live close enough to do this easily.

    3. Teeth grinder*

      Consumables. Not sweets, if either of them are diabetic, obviously, or red meat if cholesterol is an issue. I like Edible Arrangements, but a lot of them have too much candy, especially chocolate, if sugar or carbs are a concern.
      But maybe a fruit-of-the-month subscription? That’s generally healthy, and it doesn’t arrive all at once with the risk of some of it spoiling before being eaten.
      Or a gift certificate for a meal delivery service? I’d say a restaurant, but not if they don’t like going out.

      1. Nita*

        Or tea. I gave my grandparents really nice tea a couple of times, and they loved it. Especially because they could break it out when they had people over – we had a long tradition of family popping over for tea, chocolate and a chat.

    4. SigneL*

      We are older (late 60’s) and downsizing. We’d much rather have visits from kids/grands. Any time of year, doesn’t have to be a holiday.

    5. Alston*

      My grandfather adored pears, so every birthday I would send him a box of them from Harry and David. They have other fruit and snacks too, but the pears are like eat them with a spoon they are so good and so ripe.

    6. SignalLost*

      My grandparents are all dead (thank god; they were all horrible and abusive) but my parents are in that stage of life. I go out with my dad for breakfast once a month and my mother for lunch once a month. I buy them calendars for a physical gift as a reminder we’re doing this. If they’re not close enough for that to be feasible, tickets to a play, tickets to a season of community theater, something like that would be my go-to.

    7. Not A Manager*

      If you live close enough, something like “dinner and a movie” where you come over and cook a nice meal and then have a movie night with them. Even better would be if you gave them a calendar or gift card that you’ll do that, say, once a month. (Assuming that you like being with them.)

      If that won’t work, I’d say something curated by you to their taste. A playlist of music you think they’d like, or a few books on tape. The Teaching Company has a series called The Great Courses that covers pretty much everything you can think of. They can be pricy, but the always have good stuff on sale, too.

      If you like to bake, maybe they’d like some kind of homemade treat. I choose things that ship well and that freeze well, so they don’t have to eat it all at once.

    8. OperaArt*

      My 84-year-old mother, too, is downsizing. She likes to get gifts she can use up such food, beauty and self-care products, or things that make her life easier such as a large-handled jar opener, or things that help with her social life such as restaurant gift cards.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      If they use their computers much perhaps a subscription to some type of protective program- anti-everything ware?

      If they have cable maybe you could pay the extra so they could have more movies or whatever they like but won’t blow the bucks on.

      If they don’t have Triple A or similar roadside assistance that might be a good idea.

    10. Aphrodite*

      Pay for some housecleaning, preferably an individual with good references. (They’ll get better cleaning with an individual rather than a service.) Or maybe a chef who will come in and cook for them? I know I’d love services like that, which are a true luxury, rather than things.

    11. Anono-me*

      A bound photo album with a mix of old and recent pictures.

      A good friend received one from his nieces and nephews. The first half had old pictures, parents, grandparents, him growing up and various milestones in his life. The second half was current photographs of all of his loved ones with a little note. The pictures were all blown up as big as possible and all the writing was in large print.

    12. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Thebloggess dot com just ran a piece about StoryWorth. She tells it better than I could, see her post on Dec.13.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I hit post too soon. If your grandparents are smartphone savvy, I just spotted an inexpensive product that helps organize things for a move with high tech. Gives you QR codes for the boxes you’re packing, and an app that lets you dictate lists of what goes into each box, and coverts that into a searchable database. Including audio search. Wish I’d seen it before my last move!

    13. Fish Microwaver*

      Spend time with them, listening to stories and getting to know them better by opening up and sharing your memories with them. If budget permits, maybe get a couple of generations together for a photo shoot.

      1. Nana*

        There are books, “Grandmother/father Remembers” which they might enjoy doing…and the younger generation might enjoy/cherish.
        Wish I knew more about my grandparents…

  11. The Other Dawn*

    Anyone ever sell their house uses one of those “we buy houses” places? Just wondering what your experience was.

    My tenant may need to move out very soon and I really don’t want to go through the hassle of selling the house. I’d like to sell as-is through a realtor; however, my husband is convinced that we have to go the traditional route, meaning having to fix a bunch of stuff and all that. I know someone can still back out on an as-is sale, but I want the buyer to know that we don’t plan to do a bunch of repairs. We’ll do some minor things before we list it but we don’t have the cash to put in to anything more than that. There’s a good possibility that we’ll have to carry that mortgage for a bit too. I prefer to just sell to a house flipper, though, and be done with it.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Forgot to say that we know we would very likely take a loss on a quick cash sale and we’re ok with that, to a point. (Traveling today and trying to do this in the car.)

    2. Mariella*

      A friend did an as-is sale with her mother’s house after she passed…her mom had been a smoker for years so the house would have needed a lot of work to be “move in ready” – they worked with a realtor and basically got quotes for all the renovations they would have done, and made a hand-out with the “as is” price and the list of renovations/prices to show what amount of work would go into it. i think it helped b/c then people had a more realistic all-in price and didn’t get sucked in by the cheaper as-is price and then freak out when they really thought about how much new drywall would cost or whatever.

    3. SigneL*

      If you sell to a “we buy houses” place you’ll trade time for money. (And for sure, check out the buyer first!) But if you want to sell fast and also be rid of the responsibility, I’d at least look into it.

      Fixing things takes your time and money, remember.

    4. Merci Dee*

      My oldest sister sold her house last month, about 3 days after putting it on the market. That house was a total POS – one bathroom was inoperable and in the middle of “renovation” for 3 years, the other bathroom still had minor smoke damage from a small fire where a candle got friendly with a dangling towel, the water heater was out on the enclosed back porch and frequently froze during the winter, the kitchen was a wreck, and, oh, the damn house was falling off the sills. She’d been pouring cash into the house for 13 years, and nothing was ever fixed. She sold it as-is, and got a couple of different offers. She was able to get a bit over what she still owned on the mortgage, but wasn’t walking away with a ton of cash by any means. It was the best possible outcome to get rid of a house she shouldn’t have bought in the first place.

      1. Wulfgar*

        When I was house hunting I found a foreclosed property owned by the bank. The weirdest thing was the one room with shag carpet on the floor and the walls, green shag everywhere. A tree was growing in the roof. The realtor was surprised that I looked at the whole house, but I hoped for more weirdness to share with my husband.

        Someone bought and renovated the house. I think there’s a buyer for every house, however much disrepair it’s in.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Yeah, there’s actually isn’t a lot of disrepair (from what I can tell–an inspector would likely find a bunch of stuff). I think the things we have going for us are that the roof was replaced a few months ago, and we removed a tree in front whose roots were pushing up the walkway, which was warping the siding. The neighborhood, which has gone downhill at lot since we bought it 22 years ago, is really what worries me and is why I’m convinced I have no options. I know, I’m being dramatic, but this thing is a weight around my neck.

    5. Dr. Anonymous*

      What if you spend a minimum amount of time calling no more than 5 realtors to see if they feel comfortable marketing a “fixer-upper”, as-is house and if you find one, tell them to have at it? There may be one who’s good at describing the house as it is, handling the questions buyers ask about that kind of house, pricing, and getting this albatross off your neck without maybe quite the loss you might get from selling to a flipper.

      1. Wishing You Well*

        This is good advice. PLEASE spend some time finding out what your house is really worth and what agent would be willing to represent a fixer-upper. Real estate transactions need time, attention and expertise.

    6. AnotherRedHead*

      Actually do have a frank conversation with the best/most successful in your area realtor. I had a house that needed to be sold quickly with neither time, energy nor money. But it was in a very desirable neighborhood. The realtor I worked with had her own renovations and staging firm. 55k was spent on the house by the firm and paid back out at the closing. The difference between the as is price and the sold price was 175k. Two full offers at first open house. Repairs took 5 weeks but 2 of those were mostly weather related delays. My long winded point is to gather as much information as possible to consider all your options. And I did all of it via phone and electronic signature in the beginning since I was hospitalized in another state. Met realtor face to face at settlement.

    7. The Other Dawn*

      Now that I’m not on the road, a couple more things: neighborhood has gone down hill and it’s in a mixed industrial-residential area; we just got a brand new roof; work to be done would be probably replacing the back steps, which are concrete and the length of an inside staircase, and maybe replacing the retaining wall at the driveway. That’s not a necessity really at this point.

      Basically we don’t have the cash to lay out after paying for the roof, tenant may need to move soon and it’s totally unexpected on her end, and I feel like it will take forever to sell. But I know that if the price is right, someone WILL buy it. It’s just weighing on me because I now have to start a job search and I really dread having to cover two mortgages again like I had to when I evicted Tenant From Hell in 2014/2015. I don’t want to deal with being a landlord because it’s such a black cloud over my head. I’m always waiting for a bomb to drop. I want to he rid of the house. We owe 150k and *maybe* we’ll break even on price but then have to pay the commission and that’s fine by me! I guess I’m just stuck in the mindset of the worst possible scenario, which is very unlike me.

      Oh and current tenant likes to text me a novel when she’s having a hard.time with the rent and that really stresses me out. I just need to know if she has it and if not, when she will have it. But I get an enormous text with a ton of info that makes me imagine all the horrible things that could go wrong if we can’t pay that mortgage. She generally gets it to me by the 15th so the mortgage isn’t late and I don’t charge her a late charge, but it’s the 15th and she only has half because of a big, giant cluster going on between her, the boyfriend and their oldest adult son and his girlfriend. Son and girlfriend basically told them they’re leaving the following day and aren’t paying their share of the December rent even though they were there for half the month. And they ran up the electric bill so high they got shut off.

      Ugh. Sorry for the verbal diarrhea. Guess I’m a little more stressed than I thought! I’m away for our annual outing to Sturbridge MA and this has tainted the weekend for sure.

      1. Lui D.*

        Hi Dawn,
        I hope you had a good holiday season. I am sorry that you are going through this difficult time with your tenants. I know that the uncertainty is very stressful. My wife reads this blog and she forwarded me the link.
        I buy properties “as is”. My partners and I have helped many home owners like you. This is called “wholesale” real estate (RE) and it happens every day. (“Retail” RE refers to properties that are in good enough shape to rent or sell fast). Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with the “we buy houses/ugly houses” group. They are like the Walmart of wholesale RE. I am a veteran owned (go Navy!) small business.
        There are three things to consider when you want to sell a house:
        Speed (how fast the home sells)
        Price (how much money they get for the house)
        Convenience (how much effort it will take to sell the house).
        The seller may only choose two of those options at the expense of the third.
        If you want to sell fast and at a high price, you have to inconvenience yourself and get the property in good shape (costing you time and money).
        If you want the convenience of not having to fix anything but still want a high price, then you will sacrifice speed and might have to wait a long time to find someone who is willing to buy the property, at that price, and in that neighborhood.
        If you want the convenience of selling fast and not having to fix anything, then you will sacrifice on the price.
        When doing wholesale RE you are dealing with investors. Not RE agents. That means No Agent Fees. You will also get paid the full amount agreed upon all at once and fast. No need to wait for the other person to qualify for a loan. And you don’t have to fix anything because the investors have partners in the construction business who will do the work after the sale is completed.
        I hope this gives you an idea of what to expect. If you have any other questions or if you would like a free estimate you can reach me at real.estate.deals@outlook.com .
        Very respectfully,
        Lui D.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      When I sold my father’s house, I told the realtor that I could do one or two things to help make the house sale-able but that was it, nothing else.

      The realtor told me two things that came to $600. One was to put locks on the front doors, they were just nailed shut with boards because the house was a new build that had not been completed. He said he wanted the doors to open so people could walk out onto the deck. The house would feel bigger he said. Then he said to put the stairs in to get up to the loft. He said “You will spend $500 and it will give you $5000 more at the closing table.” So I did those two things. He never asked for anything else to be done. I sold the house within a few months of putting it on the market. This was a very rural house that needed to be finished, everything had been started but not completed. (For example there was a tub but no shower.)
      The thing I found is that I had to be willing to negotiate price in order to unload it. It’s a good idea to know where your boundaries are and how much you are willing to put up with. I did not want to go through the winter with this house that was an hour away from me. I was willing to come down on price just to avoid winter with The House.

    9. Glomarization, Esq.*

      The “we buy houses” people will give you something like only 30-40% of the fair market value of your house. Your quid for their quo is that you get cash money in hand and the transaction will happen very quickly.

      If you retain a Realtor and tell them you’re a “motivated seller,” you will almost certainly get much, much more money for your sale, even including fees to the Realtor.

      Source: this is how a family member got rid of a house with dated décor and a slew of needed repairs last year.

    10. E*

      I sold my parents’ home as is without any issues, to local home flippers. I had tried one of those “we buy houses” but their offer was horribly low. I took a bit of a hit on selling as is but not that bad, and the folks knew what they were buying and the work required to fix it up. My realtor had the experience to price the house well, and I had an offer within a couple of weeks with little effort.

  12. Anon the Mouse*

    I wrote a few weeks ago about having difficulty moving past feelings for a friend that he and I nearly acted on, but he and I are both involved in serious relationships (and I’m married) so we thankfully decided better of it. This feels oddly like a breakup that I can’t breakup, because our friend group is pretty closely knit I can’t cut him out or it’ll look like something is wrong. We no longer spend any time alone together, which is probably good because I can’t decide whether I should talk to him about the strange feelings I’m still working through, and that’s not his problem. I’m talking to my therapist about it, who keeps saying that I should work on forgiving myself. I have been making progress to that end and have been leaning on the fact that I walked away, which makes me feel less horrible about not telling my husband about this – it’d only be for me, and would ruin his security, which is not something I want since I really do love him and this wasn’t his fault.

    My husband and I have been talking a lot more and I feel that our relationship is a lot stronger recently, since we have been working on being more affectionate regularly and are talking about things we want/need long-term from each other (more effort, not getting lazy, etc.). I just feel badly that I’m having trouble moving on from whatever vestige of feelings I have left for our friend, and I need strategies to get past that. I’ve read a lot of articles online recently about affairs and though none of it really matches exactly what my situation is, I’m seeing a lot of advice like “latch onto a thing that you don’t like,” which I’m trying and has helped, just feel like I need more.

    I know this is not a happy topic but I would appreciate anyone’s advice.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I think this is hard because of your ties to mutual friends it you can’t fully break the connection to him.
      And added wrinkle, this one takes time, there’s no instant fixes.

      Many times these attachments happen because something is missing at home. So working on at home stuff is a VERY good idea.

      It looks to me like you are doing everything right and you just need to keep doing it. Perhaps you can distract yourself even more by adding a new thing at home that you are excited about. I am thinking a pup, because I am such a dog person. But think of a doable, pleasant thing you can add to your life very soon. Maybe you and your hubby can think of a new thing to do together. Couples gravitate toward working hard and sometimes they forget to play together. What do you do for fun? What makes the two of you share some laughs? Laughter can be very bonding and very therapeutic.

      My best tidbit of input is this: Couples who take walks together have stronger marriages. This could be 15 minutes every other night or so. It does not have to be huge. The trick is to commit to doing it. Over time those walks end up having a cumulative effect. Sometimes you talk about problems, sometimes you make plans and sometimes you just enjoy each other.

      1. valentine*

        Something is wrong. Should you act accordingly? Really look at your assumptions. You can’t x. You can’t y. What if you did? What if being honest about this didn’t ruin your husband’s security? If it does, did the security really exist?

        Try six months no-contact with Dude, and pull back from the friend group if they remind you too much of him. If this were reversed, though, would you be happy to be ignorant while your husband has group hangouts with a near-affair partner? You’re having it both ways. Cut ties and ride out the crush.

    2. Jane of All Trades*

      You have my sympathies! That sounds like a very hard situation. I think yes, you should be kind to yourself and remember that you didn’t act on it, and also give yourself some time. Is it possible to sit out a couple of the next get togethers where this friend would be present? Do you have other, separate friendships that you could lean on a little more heavily during this time? You could also ask yourself what you got out of the interactions with this friend and how you can replace that so it’s easier to get over? Was it the novelty? Companionship? What could you do to have a similar experience that doesn’t compromise your marriage. Hobbies give you novelty. Hanging out more with your own friends rather than a bigger group could give you more companionship. Best wishes!

    3. Anona*

      I wouldn’t talk to the guy in your former relationship, especially since you’ve been doing a good job of separating yourself. Keep talking to your therapist. And keep limiting the time you spend around him as much as possible. Delete his number, block him on social media, or at least unfollow him, just disengage.

      And I know you say you can’t cut him out because your friends are close, so get “busy” and take a break from those friends for awhile, while things continue to cool off. Take up a hobby that makes you busy and gives you less time to hang out, like a rock climbing class at the gym. Or just say that you’re tired from work when a hangout time is approaching, and you just want a quiet night in instead. Keep hanging out with your husband. Have sex, go on a date, go on walks, go for a drive just because.
      You can do this.

    4. Phoenix Programmer*

      Have you talked to your spouse about your feelings?

      I had a similar situation. We’ve been married 6 years and I developed a crush on a boss. I told husband about it and he made me laugh so hard about it. We now have this joke about how I always end up with 6’4 185lb latin bosses. It’s so true!

      Once hubby knew my feelings they died down quite a bit and I instantly felt better about myself too. I think part of the feelings was – it’s a secrete/forbidden. Once my husband was in on them we could laugh it off together and I felt so much lighter and better. Obs I could not cut my boss out of my life either.

      Hubby and I have a solid relationship builtontrustamd respect which helps a lot too. He’s also confident in himself and knows I live him more than anything.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      +1000

      I don’t really see this as the time or the place for a discussion of that kind. Let’s move on.

    2. valentine*

      LW is doing it and doubled down.

      I want people who do terrible things to ask Alison’s advice and shaming them at all turns doesn’t foster that.

  13. Myrin*

    It appears I am becoming my mother, who for as long as I can remember has been very prone to falling asleep while watching TV (and can famously watch the same crime series episode over and over again without ever catching who the killer is).

    I’m not much of a TV watcher so I don’t know if it’d happen there, too, but for the past half a year or so, I’ve steadily started to drift into a light slumber when I’m watching Youtube videos in the evening (or not so much the evening, apparently, since it’s only five p.m. here right now and it just happened again!). These are not relaxing pastel-toned videos with calming music – I just fell asleep watching a Super Mario speedrun! It’s also really strange insofar as it’s not like I’m generally tired afterwards and could then immediately go to bed – as soon as I move away from the video, I’m highly alert again! It’s also not the screen per se – I can read and write just fine, it’s only videos!

    I’m not concerned or anything, just amused and a little bewildered – has this happened to anyone else? For the record, I’m not getting less sleep or am more stressed or exhausted than before, it’s almost like an “artificial” tiredness which only lives in the presence of a video and vanishes as soon as the video vanishes. It’s strange and curious!

    1. Triplestep*

      I think I am becoming your mother, too, for what it’s worth. I am 55. I am typically happier and more well-rested when I force myself to shut off the tv and go to bed.

      My husband resisted getting a DVR for the longest time, but I told him that we wouldn’t watch MORE television – just the television we wanted to watch, when we wanted to watch it. And this has born itself out. Not feeling compelled to watch things has helped me be more disciplined about bed time but when I DO watch, I have been known to back up through a recording to see what I missed when I dozed off!

    2. Nicole76*

      I do that too, although not so much during the day. Just last night I fell asleep on the couch watching TV, but when I went upstairs to bed I was lying there for like a half hour feeling too awake. I really hate that!

    3. Teeth grinder*

      Maybe you should be concerned, though. It might not just be a matter of getting older. Have you had your thyroid checked lately? What about your oxygen levels?

      My mother started falling asleep a lot, and it turned out she wasn’t getting enough oxygen. (Her COPD and congestive heart failure were not being adequately treated.) The doctor was actually concerned about permanent cognitive impairment, but she was fine with a new inhaler and occasional oxygen therapy.

      Yes, you say your mother did the same thing as she got older, but some conditions run in families. Talk about it with your doctor, just in case.

      1. Myrin*

        I have had my thyroid checked early this year, actually, and had a general check-up in March, so I’d say I’m good on that front. It also appears you might be imagining us of different ages than we are – I’m 27, and my mum has experienced this thing at least for all my life and I believe for longer, so not only “as she got older” (as has my grandfather, for that matter; my mum has memories of his falling asleep during late-night movies from when she was a young girl). And I don’t fall asleep a lot at all – like I said, it only happens when I watch videos late in the day, not on any other occasion, so I really don’t think I need to be conerned.

        1. Addy*

          This happened to a friend of mine who is 30. It turned out that she actually had an eye condition, and falling asleep was her body’s protective response to the stress in her eyes. I’d go see an ophthalmologist! (I think it was called intermittent exotrophy?)

          1. Myrin*

            I’ve actually also been at an ophthalmologist’s recently (in October, to be exact) because I needed new glasses!
            But again, this only happens with videos and basically only in the evening – I’m completely fine with staring at a screen literally all day. I really think it’s just a weird quirk running in my family (and probably not limited to that – isn’t the person falling asleep in front of the TV a bit of a trope even?), and all of us certainly go to the doctor’s often enough to have realised by now if something was wrong.

        2. Book Lover*

          I fall asleep two minutes after starting a podcast, it is kind of nice :). I put it on in bed, though, comfier than couch.

      2. Rahera*

        I don’t see any need to medicalise this. It sounds perfectly normal to me. :)

        I sometimes nod off watching a video or tv, and I suspect it’s because the background hum of the audio is faintly soporific. Possibly also some voices are naturally soothing, so a voice with a particular timbre, speaking on and on at a certain pitch, might well be soporific.

    4. Wishing You Well*

      Time for a full checkup with blood tests – just to make sure something hasn’t indeed changed. Get your eyes checked, too. (I know lots of people with apnea, but that’s only one possibility.)
      Live long, live well!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I was in my mid 30s when I had to learn to turn the tv off and go to bed. After a bit it dawned on me that if all I can do is watch tv, then I probably should just skip the tv and go to bed.
      I ended up having a bedtime of 9:30 – 10 pm and this kind of precluded my watching many shows.

      I think you need to get more rest and less tv. What you are saying is normal, tv will disrupt our sleep cycles as you show here. You end up tired and nodding off, yet if you walk away you are wide awake. Television will have that effect on people.

    6. Asenath*

      I’m telling myself it’s perfectly normal – although there are times I remember how odd I found it when my grandparents would sit down after supper to watch the TV news, and doze off! Now I’m doing it – not with TV news, which I don’t even try to watch, but with all kinds of miscellaneous Netflix shows. I just decided that I’m getting tired a bit more easily as I age, and all it takes is for me to settle in a nice warm comfortable place, like a recliner, for me to relax enough to doze off.

    7. Amber Rose*

      I have always been that way when my husband plays video games, and with longer let’s plays on YouTube.

      In fact, when I was in a traumatic car accident and couldn’t sleep due to tension and injury pain, husband stayed up all night playing a video game so I could sleep. It worked better than pain medication. We still joke about how the cure for a broken arm is old school RPGs.

  14. Knee replacement*

    Who out there has experience with knee replacement surgery? A family member will need it performed on both knees. Is it better to do one knee at a time? How long did you wait to get it done (i.e. how much pain were you in/how limited was your mobility)? Advice?

    1. SignalLost*

      Do both knees at once. The recovery time isn’t shorter but you only have to do it once. No one in my family has had it done but a coworker of my mother’s did it one at a time years ago and aside from the fact of having to do a pretty intensive recovery period twice she also had to unlearn some bad habits she’d made when the one was done but the other wasn’t. She did them 12 months apart, and it sounded like it was harder than it needed to be.

    2. Teeth grinder*

      I know different people who did it both ways, singly and two at once. It depends on your own preferences and your doctor’s advice. Whether you can tolerate the longer anaesthesia of the double procedure is a medical question.
      If you do both at once, you won’t have a “good” leg while recovering. It’s like having two broken legs at first. Individual recuperation time varies so much that I don’t know whether it takes longer to rehabilitate two knees at once than just one. But when it’s done, it’s done.
      If you do one at a time, you know just how painful that second one is going to be. Are you the sort of person who might chicken out in that situation?
      There’s also the insurance and PTO question. Will you be able to afford to take all that time off, including physical therapy, twice? Would doing both at once save you paying multiple deductibles?

    3. LNLN*

      I had knee replacement surgery in April (at age 63, if that matters) and it was more challenging than I expected. I was off work for 6 weeks instead of the 4 weeks I had planned. I needed a lot of medication for the post-surgical pain. My recovery went well, my physical therapy was successful and I had great support, but I cannot imagine having both knees done at the same time. I know 2 people who did and they had great outcomes, but it would not have worked for me.

      1. fposte*

        I had a colleague who did the knees separately, and she’s said the same thing. She’s relentless with herself on physical therapy and had a spouse available for support and transport, so my takeaway is that if she wouldn’t want to do both at the same time in pretty much a best-case scenario, I definitely wouldn’t.

    4. Wishing You Well*

      Don’t wait. The older and weaker you are, the more difficult it is to recover. You must do the physical therapy/rehab for a successful replacement. The pain can be high for the first 3 days, depending on your tolerance.

    5. Figgie*

      Retired RN here. When you do one knee at a time, the knee that wasn’t replaced is stressed a lot and deteriorates very quickly. This usually means that that knee is going to be a lot more painful. If the person having the knee replacements is on Medicare, Medicare will often pay for a short-term nursing home stay where you have help with everything and can get PT twice a day.

      My personal preference is to get them both done at the same time because it halves the amount of pain medication and the recovery time. I’ve known too many people who get one knee done and then decide that they aren’t going to get the other one done because the rehab was too difficult and/or painful.

      I also know people who pretty much were in so much less pain after surgery that they needed almost no pain medication…a nurse friend pretty much walked out of the hospital with her walker after her double knee replacement surgery and said she felt better than she had felt in years.

      What’s most important is to do the physical therapy and the exercises prescribed by the physical therapist and work the knee joint so that you don’t end up with limited range of motion and be worse off than you were before the surgery.

    6. Imtheone*

      I had both knee replacements, 10 months apart. We found the first one pretty difficult, and my husband and adult son pretty much did nothing but cook and help me for two weeks. For the second, we scheduled the surgery during a time when it was easier to take more time off from work. The second one was also easier because one knee was pretty pain free. for the first surgery, I had one knee that badly needed to be replaced and one that was just healing from the surgery.
      If I had had both done at once, I wouldn’t have been able to be at home for the first one to two weeks because of needing to manage the stairs. I preferred being at home to going to a rehab center. I know of older people who weren’t working who did both at once and had good support at rehab centers.
      I waited too long to have the surgeries. I was in a lot of pain and couldn’t easily go shopping. I would calculate how many times I would need to go upstairs at home and try to cut it to the minimum.
      For recovery, after about two or three weeks, you can drive if the surgery was on the left knee and you have an automatic transmission in the car. For the right knee, probably six weeks until you can drive.
      Rehab will be better if you do exercises in preparation. You could have one session with a PT to get suggestions on appropriate exercises.

  15. Triplestep*

    My crock pot broke and I replaced with an Instant Pot, so now I am overwhelmed. I would love tips and tricks and anecdotes on how you learned to use yours, and recommend some online resources if you know any. I have not used it yet, and have set aside today to get familiar with it.

    I know people like to post their favorite Instant Pot recipes, and if you want to post them here for others, that’s fine. But for me – since I am overwhelmed – I am really just looking for tips on how to be less so, and online “For Dummies” type resources for learning to use the thing.

    Thank you!

    1. patricia*

      I REALLY like the cookbook “Dinner in an Instant” by Melissa Clark, which not only has a ton of yummy recipes (many of which she has slow cooker variations on), it gives you some pressure cooker basics in a non-intimidating way. I find many of the online IP recipes to be heavy on cheese, cream, chicken and ground beef or roasts, and her cookbook contains some lovely alternatives. Her book is what finally got me to use the IP that my husband had been cooking in and raving about for months.

      1. patricia*

        Just saw you asked for online resources. The cookbook’s not online but I found it so helpful I wanted to make the recommendation. Good luck.

        1. Triplestep*

          No, this is good too! I do want online resources so I can access them today, but I should not have limited it – long term ones are welcome, too. Thank you!

      2. Bibliovore*

        I am seconding the Melissa Clark. It is my go-to and the recipes work.
        A few things that might not be clear- read the whole recipe as she never includes water and the measurements in the list of ingredients. Ex. 1 cup of steel cut oat meal. The cups of water needed are in the directions. Her oatmeal recipe can be doubled.
        Every Sunday I make oatmeal and hardboiled eggs for the week.
        Remember to check that you have the steam release set back when you start.

        1. Jaid_Diah*

          OMG yes. Always double check the venting knob. That always messes me up.

          I have an IP Mini, so there aren’t as many cookbooks for it, but it’s worth the smaller size, being single.

      3. Overeducated*

        Thirding! It’s a good cookbook. I also got an Insant Pot Indian cookbook since I’m nervous to try adapting my favorite recipes after a few poor improvisations. The internet is so overwhelming, with so little quality control, that the cookbooks are good baselines.

        My other main tip is that I had some trouble making good beans for a while, compared to the slow cooker, until I figured out to always give it 2 them minutes cook time than the tables say, and never do more than a pound at once. I can do 2 lbs at a time in the slow cooker, but in the IP they won’t cook evenly.

    2. MuttIsMyCopilot*

      I love my Instant Pot so much that I just bought another (larger!) one! I was kind of afraid to use it at first, and found it really helpful to go through the part of the instructions that outlines cooking times and ratios for basics and try out some of those. So I did things like boiled eggs, plain rice, oats, beans, etc. That way I could get used to the different functions and cook times without having to worry about getting a recipe right. Making broth was really helpful at first too because I could just throw in my bones and/or veggies and go for it. There’s no way to mess that up.

    3. Ranon*

      Dad Cooks Dinner has a big instant pot section with recipes but also some general guides, might be a place to start. We’ve had good results with the recipes, too, and he generally explains a bit of the technical what’s going on rather than just saying “cook on high for 4 minutes, quick release” or whatever. America’s Test Kitchen also has a pressure cooker cookbook that was available as an ebook through my library if you’re looking for a sort of online resource.

    4. Kat*

      If you are on Facebook, there is a group called Instant Pot 101 for Beginners. It has a TON of information on how to start using it, and is really focused on answering beginner questions with no ridicule allowed. I learned a ton.

      1. Kat*

        Also, the Amy and Jacky website, pressurecookrecipes.com, has a ton of tested recipes with detailed instructions. When I am going to try something new, I always check that site to see if they have a recipe for it.

    5. Lady Alys*

      The Serious Eats website has lots of recipes for the Instant Pot, and each recipe has an explanation of the science behind it.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Brown rice in an InstantPot took some finagling. We’re at sea level, if that makes a difference.

      4 cups brown rice
      5 cups water
      multigrain setting
      high-pressure
      20 minutes

    7. Triplestep*

      Thank you for the suggestions, everyone! I successfully made a chicken stew recipe that I typically did in my crock pot (had to start there as I had bought the ingredients when the crock pot broke) and I also hard-boiled eggs. Today I will be steaming broccoli and finding some way to cook the rest of the chicken that didn’t go into the stew.

      I am feeling less intimidated, and glad to know that my sense of overwhelm is not an unreasonable reaction (as evidenced by the number of basic resources you’ve all shared!)

      Thanks again …

    8. CatCat*

      I highly recommend the cook time chart page on the site Hip Pressure Cooking. I refer to it all the time.

    9. JxB*

      I’m another instant pot fan. My suggestion would be to start with what’s familiar and tried and true recipes, then expand. Since it is also a crock pot, you can continue to use it for the same dishes you made before. My number one pressure cooker use is beef stew. We love that. The hardest thing for me is planning the time to pressurize so I cook meals with flexible timeframes, things that can then go on “warm” and sit for a bit.

      My model has the saute feature, so I also use it for chili. Cook the ground meat, add spices and ingredients for your style of chili, turn it on crock pot high for a while to blend all the flavors and then down to warm.

      I did buy the glass lid to use with crockpot mode, although I think – honestly – I probably had one that fit if I’d dug through my pots and pans. (My family needed Xmas ideas last year for me, so I went for accessories.)

      Another thing I use it for is cooking “boiled” eggs for deviled eggs when I need a dozen or more.
      I love cookbooks, have a ton, and like to browse through them. But usually I grab my recipes from online, sites like allrecipes.com. Have fun!

    10. Garland not Andrews*

      Bit late.
      My suggestion, once you get cooking, is to create your own reference guide. I have found that times vary slightly between my sister and I because I live at a much higher altitude. Also it is handy for your frequently used recipes as a quick reference guide.
      I do mine in a computer file, but my sister has hers on paper. Do whatever works for you!

  16. patricia*

    I miss Snark commenting here. That’s all. Been meaning to come to the weekend open thread for weeks to say only that. He was the best.

    1. Myrin*

      Last time I saw him, he had gone somewhat back to his original username of Liet, changing it to “Liet-Kinda”, but I haven’t seen that name in something like two weeks or so, either. I do recall that he’d just changed jobs, though, so he might be having more going on in his life than usual. I sure hope he’s okay!

      (Adding onto that, Alison or anyone else, have you heard of LBK anytime lately? I know he said he’d had a lot of stuff to do and not much time but man, it’s been long and I miss him!)

      1. patricia*

        Yup, LBK is also someone I miss. I’ve seen Liet-Kinda occasionally but not with the volume or the same…humor and, well, snark as Snark, so I didn’t realize it was the same person.

      2. Someone Else*

        I might be mixing this up but I thought he mentioned something about an out-of-the-country trip? So he might be on said trip.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Thanks. There’s always that little worry when people disappear shortly after major events like the California wildfires.

  17. Seifer*

    Is anyone else really excited to file taxes? Ever since I moved out and realized that I could do it by myself through Turbotax and not the shady Vietnamese accountant that somehow always makes it so I end up owing money, January is an exercise in impatiently waiting for those forms to start coming in the mail. Although, I guess it’s not really the filing taxes that I’m excited about, it’s the tax return haha.

    1. Teeth grinder*

      Doing your taxes is part of being grown up. I can see that being a good feeling.
      As a CPA, with complicated personal finances besides, preparing taxes is not what I consider an enjoyable pastime. It’s that nasty four letter word that starts with W, and by no means my favorite part of the profession.
      BTW, you don’t have to wait for all the forms to arrive to do a pretty good first draft. Look at your final paystub for the year, and the last statement from the bank and brokerage, etc., and add up any deductible expenses. You can get an idea what your tax liability (or refund) will be, even if it isn’t the final number.
      Doing an estimate in early December is actually a really good idea, in case you want to prepay a mortgage or health insurance premium, or sell stock, or up your 401K contribution for the remaining paychecks.

    2. Nervous Accountant*

      Tax accountant here, shockingly I don’t hate tax season but I have always hated filing my own taxes and have gone on extension the last few years. Anyone would be excited to get a tax “refund” lol

    3. BRR*

      I love doing them right away. Maybe partially because I like getting things done. Maybe also because I like gambling and I live in a different state than I work and haven’t quite gotten my withholding right so it’s like gambling to see how much I’ll get back or owe (I know that sounds horrible).

      1. fposte*

        I actually get that–I’m always just curious about the results! I did a projection last month because I was hoping to do an in-plan Roth rollover and wanted to make sure I understood the taxes. I did do the rollover, so I’m going to owe big time, but I’m just reminding myself that future me will be very pleased.

    4. LibbyG*

      I’m wincing at the “shady Vietnamese” phrase. Maybe your former accountant sucked, but the racist trope about Asian people is that they’re sneaky and inscrutable. I share your love of Turbotax; but I don’t see why the race or ethnicity of your former accountant is relevant to your main point.

      1. Teeth grinder*

        Sometimes in a close community, such as an immigrant neighborhood or a church congregation, there’s a tendency to think, “Oh, he’s one of us, why go to anyone else?” Which is fine if the professional in question is actually competent and ethical. But they aren’t always.
        I thought maybe OP’s parents were from Vietnam, and had always gone to this accountant for that reason.
        Guerilla warfare aside, where sneaky is kind of the point, I never, ever, heard a stereotype that Asians were sneaky.

      2. bothered*

        I’m asian, and was also bothered by “shady Vietnamese”. Why did you find it necessary to include his/her race?

      3. Seifer*

        Teeth grinder hit the nail on the head. He was recommended to my parents by a friend when they first came to the States, and for a while, that was the thinking. I went with them a couple of times and he was under the impression that I did not speak Vietnamese and asked my parents when I was going to work for the nail salon and when that happens, make sure I got paid under the table so that I didn’t have to pay taxes. We stopped going after that since it seemed pretty shady for a tax accountant to recommend how I could avoid paying taxes, and I was able to explain how to use Turbotax to my parents.

    5. SigneL*

      I’m happy to file taxes as soon as we get all our 1099’s, which can be mid-February (WHY??). I really like to get the filed and done.

      1. Rhymes with Mitochondria*

        A past employer of my husband’s routinely sent out the stuff in late March! The last year we didn’t get it until June and our accountant just filed an extension for us.
        Just one reason of many they are a PAST employer.

        1. Teeth grinder*

          If you want to get the ex-employer in trouble, tell the IRS about that timing. There are some not-insignificant consequences.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Guh, why would I be excited!?

      I use FreeTaxUSA. They charge $12 for state and federal is free, and they walk you through it and file for you. My property tax for the year is paid now but I have no income to report, so I won’t be getting anything back. :P

      1. Red Reader*

        CreditKarma does free filing for both state and fed, regardless of income. (Or at least, they did the last two years.)

      2. Nervous Accountant*

        have you looked in to VITA? IRS sets up offices across the country to assist low income taxpayers in filing their taxes. If you meet a certain income amount and have a simple situation, you may be eligible for free tax preparation services. The preparers are trained on the IRS tax codes & rules as well so no shadiness or cutting corners there.

    7. Asenath*

      My process is the reverse – I used to always do my own taxes, but a few years ago things got a little complicated, so I asked someone I thought should know to recommend a tax accountant. He’s much more expensive than doing it myself, but it’s such a pleasant process – just handing over the documentation and then signing the result – that I decided he was a worthwhile luxury.

      Mostly, I like it. My affairs are set up so that I almost never have to pay extra in and sometimes get a bit extra back, which is like a nice present even if I know it’s a result of me overpaying my taxes a little all year.

      1. Asenath*

        Not unless I really was annoying, and there was no reason for me to be annoying. Whether I’m annoying is debatable, and something I can change if I want and need to. The colour of my skin is merely a fact.

    8. Dan*

      What makes you think your accountant was shady? That statement implies that your accountant somehow benefits from having you owe money… that’s not how it works. I’m concerned about a few things in this statement, to say the least…

      1. Jaid_Diah*

        Yeah. Usually it’s the CPA who promises massive refunds based on EIC or other credits the taxpayer isn’t entitled to, that one hears about.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Scroll back up for her update… that tax accountant recommended paying her under the table, when talking to her parents and assuming she couldn’t speak Vietnamese.
        Demonstrably shady… and “old country connection” not just a poke at one nationality. (I felt better but I’m still appalled at the accountant’s advice!)

  18. Myrin*

    A good friend had a baby on Tuesday and I’d love to get her a little something the next time I see her. We already agreed that I would be getting her family something once they have a better understanding of what exactly it is they are missing and/or need a lot of, but independently of that, do you guys have anything that you found new parents absolutely need but often don’t think about beforehand/don’t generally ask for?

    1. Clever Name*

      Sleep. But since you can’t give her that, I’d offer to come visit and take care of the baby while she eats/sleeps/takes a bubble bath/or does anything requiring 2 hands. Or maybe bring her dinner hot and ready to eat one evening. Or clean her house. Honestly, babies really need very few things, but the family needs a lot of support in the early weeks.

      1. NB*

        One of the very best gifts anyone gave me when my babies were born was sending her cleaning lady to my house. I don’t have one myself, so I was thrilled, delighted, OVER THE MOON with this gift.

    2. Not A Manager*

      IIRC (and it was a long time ago), the problem with your idea is that the things parents didn’t know they need tend to be… not super sexy gift ideas. Like, more tiny newborn diapers than you can imagine. Or, nursing pads. Or, bags of frozen peas for sore breasts or episiotomies.

      If you’re planning to get a “big gift” later, then I’d either just get a small cute thing now (like baby socks, or one of those clips for pacifiers so they don’t get lost), or I’d make it very casual and call the mom up and ask if she needs you to grab anything on your way over. What she might really need is a latte, or a glass of wine.

      1. SigneL*

        In my experience, baby socks vanished fast. That’s what I’d bring. Along with a casserole or Chinese.

    3. strangebuttrue*

      I make a baby quilt. Use pre-quilted fabric and get 4 ft. This is about square. Just bind it. It’s not too bulky and easy to wash when it gets dirty. It’s great when you need to put the baby down for a minute, to change diapers at someone else’s house, handy blanket and when my kids were a little older a designated place they could eat their snacks instead of always being in the highchair. Any pre-quilted fabric will do. I currently have some black and white paisley waiting for the next baby. I’ve used Christmas theme for a baby born in December.

    4. LNLN*

      I like to give nursing mothers a nightgown or PJs that make it easy to breastfeed at night (so buttons or snaps down the front or a bottoms/top set). They seem to appreciate getting something to themselves (instead of for the baby).

      1. Nita*

        Seconding that! Nursing, and generally caring for a baby, can destroy house clothes pretty fast. New bath robes and PJs are a very useful present!

        Also a play mat, if they don’t have one. It’s so nice to just put baby down on the floor next to me, and keep doing what I’m doing… before they’re old enough to sit, it’s either that or the car seat, and the car seat doesn’t seem super comfortable for a baby who’s still kind of floppy.

    5. Harriet J*

      I agree with the other posters who suggested bringing something for the parents. One of my favorite gifts was a basket of food – fresh fruit, cheese, nuts, crackers, etc. I could snack (because I didn’t have the energy for a full meal) and had something to serve to visitors. My freezer was full of casseroles, which was wonderful.
      I am so thankful for my supportive friends and family.

    6. Zen Cohen*

      Slate Magazine did an endorsement of this idea awhile ago, but a pack of chux (like the disposable pee/body effluvia pads they give you in the hospital) are really great. Sometimes your baby has a rash and needs no diaper time or is pooping all over the changing bad and you just can’t handle another load of laundry.

    7. Red Reader*

      I filled my friends’ freezer with meal options when they had a baby. For my nephew, I lived on the other side of the country, so I sent them a box of their preferred size/brand diapers on the first of every month via Amazon for his first year – my SIL said that was the best gift they got.

    8. Parenthetically*

      Yes to the unsexy things — nursing pads, ice packs — if that’s your type of friendship. And a BIG yes both to “Hey, I’m heading to the market/Target/liquor store/coffee shop just before I head over to see you, what can I grab?” and just bringing ALL THE SNACKS. Especially if she’s nursing. I had never experienced hunger like that in the first few weeks, just seriously ravenous constantly. Trail mix was my go-to, but I wouldn’t say no to almost anything that wasn’t nailed down. After my bestie’s first baby, another friend and I filled her fridge and cupboards with sparkling water, beer, hard-boiled eggs, cheese sticks, baked oatmeal, every granola bar on God’s earth, and whatever other snacks we could think of that a person could eat one-handed at 3 a.m. I definitely wouldn’t have said no to a large latte (only about 3% of caffeine makes it into breastmilk so a few units a day is absolutely fine; same with booze — your BAC is the same as the alcohol content in the milk so even if you’re too drunk to drive, your breastmilk only contains 1% ABV or whatever).

      You might ask if there was any food she couldn’t eat at the end of her pregnancy (heartburn is very common and often means women have to limit spicy or acidic foods) that you could bring over. I got someone to bring me super-spicy Thai food in the hospital and it tasted like the food of the gods.

    9. Book Lover*

      Lots of plain little t shirts that fold over (kimono style, so you don’t have to get them over the head), diapers, wipes – gift card to Costco is nice for that, also.
      A little later – my friend made be a beautiful photo album/scrapbook with pictures I had posted on facebook.

      Vanicream for dry sensitive baby skin. Free and clear detergent. Mustela shampoo is nice. Or another baby shampoo.

    10. IntoTheSarchasm*

      A friend taught me this and it saved me a few times. Gift her two large waterproof pads, almost crib sized, and two extra fitted crib sheets. If she puts a sheet on the mattress, then a pad, sheet, pad, sheet, she can just peel off the top soiled one should an accident occur. This is great – especially in the middle of the night! I also find most cribs are hard to get the sheet on, so I would take it right out of the crib, later it up and be good for a while. The large pads can be hard to find but so worth it!

    11. Ranon*

      Phone call- “I’m on my way, I’m standing in the baby section at Target, do you need me to pick anything up?”

      The foaming mustefla soap for cradle cap is pretty great. And since it’s cold & flu season, a bottle of hand sanitizer and a bag of clementines wouldn’t go amiss. And a vat of unscented hand lotion.

      1. Anona*

        A text is even better! But yes, the Target suggestion is great. At the beginning I didn’t have the capacity to talk on the phone.

    12. An Elephant Never Baguettes*

      We’re getting name stickers for our friend who just had a baby – not useful immediately, but once the kid’s at the Kita/in Kindergarten they’ll apparently need a ton of them, according to my friends who already have children.

    13. Maya Elena*

      A few other suggestions:

      – Super organic nontoxic etc dish soap and a high quality bottle brush, big and small (for crevices as well) so they’re not stuck figuring out if it’s ok to use normal detergent or if it’s washed out enough or clean enough.

      -An acquaintance mentioned new born size onesies. You only need them for a few weeks and everyone gets the larger sizes as gifts. Ask your friend first though.

      -If formula is used at all, even to “supplement”, pre mixed formula bottles (Similac is market leader). Formula is expensive, expires fast, and if used goes fast.

      -Reusable diaper pad “liners”. A dozen if you’re feeling openhanded. They’re great but get used up quickly and destroyed easily in washer dryer.

    14. Anona*

      Food/dinner in a container that doesn’t need to be returned (I’m the parent of a 4 month old). Special points if it’s slightly healthy, like a rotisserie chicken + some veggies.

      1. Anona*

        Oh! And when you visit, please don’t stay long. Like 15 minutes max, or just drop stuff off at the door. And text before you come, to make sure it’s a good time. The schedule at the beginning is crazy, and the mom may be in various stages of undress.

        1. Fish Microwaver*

          On the other hand, a slightly longer stay where the mom can take a full shower and wash and dry her hair might be appreciated.

        2. Parenthetically*

          If you’re going to DO something, though — hold the baby so mom can have a shower, do a sinkful of dishes, etc. — STAY LONGER.

          Also, I felt desperate for adult company those first weeks!

      2. Anona*

        Snacks/food that can be eaten one handed, like granola bars. Holding a baby can make it hard to eat with two hands, unfortunately.

    15. Fellow Traveler*

      Fresh fruit and a large salad. I love all my friends who brought me a freezer meal, but after a while you just want something fresh and not reheated.

      1. PhyllisB*

        One of my go-to gifts for new parents is a kit that has nail clippers, hair brush set, nose drops grippe water (I never used that, but…) and a few other things. Johnson & Johnson makes them and they cost about $30.00 I have always gotten profuse thanks, because even if you already have these items, it’s good to have duplicates. (Those tiny clippers disappear real easy.) You can keep supplies in several rooms or take the whole kit to leave with grandma.

  19. awkward anon*

    In my group of friends, there is a guy “Steve.” He’s a friend of a friend and just started to hang out with us. I thought Steve hated me because the few times I tried talking to him, he gave one word answers or seemed standoffish. A friend said that he could be moody and had some stuff going on, so I just let it go and left him alone.

    Flash forward and then it seemed like Steve started to warm up and we chatted a few times, but I think people thought something was going on between us or that we liked each other, so they started giving us a hard time.
    Well, I think that their teasing spooked Steve and then he started avoiding me. He’s now hanging out with another woman in the group and seems to be dating her. Now it’s awkward and my friends look at me with pity.

    The thing is though, I never really liked Steve. I seriously thought that he didn’t like me. It’s just so awkward now that when I go to the group events, Steve will change seats or look away when I arrive. I just ignore him and talk with my friends. Nothing happened though between us! We never dated or anything, so why the awkwardness? Why the weirdness?

    I want to still see my friends and go to these events, but I’m seriously thinking of not going because it’s weird and uncomfortable. I thought things like this only happened when you dated and broke up with someone- nothing like that even happened, so I don’t know why it’s so weird and tense.

    1. Lena Clare*

      God he sounds like hard work. People behave in ways that make sense to them. He seems fragile and withdrawing, but that’s not your problem.
      I’d ignore him and just enjoy your friends’ company.

    2. Nicole76*

      Sounds a lot like a guy I knew in high school. He was generally shy but would talk to me all the time. A friend of his told me he liked me and wanted me to call him, so I did. He acted really strangely toward me and pretty much ignored me after that. Thing is, I think he did like me but didn’t know how to handle me pursuing him. I don’t know for sure, but we never spoke after that and I chalked it up to immaturity on his part. Some people never grow out of their immaturity, and I’m guessing that applies to Steve.

    3. Teeth grinder*

      Talk to one of your friends about it. Maybe more than one, if the first one isn’t gossipy enough. Steve may still act weird, but the rest of the group will know you aren’t bereft.

    4. Myrin*

      I’m honestly not impressed with either Steve or your friends here – not to be too harsh on your friends, but who above the age of like 13 gives someone “a hard time” because they think two people like-like each other? And only because they started talking a little more, at that?

      But in any case, since you never really liked Steve to begin with, I think your “strategy” of ignoring him is just the way to go. The only thing left to do on your end is to not focus on the ignoring and just… simply live your life, I guess? As in, try to consciously not pay attention to him because honestly, he’s behaving weirdly but all that weirdness is on (and in) him – you don’t need to be involved in that at all! (I know that’s easier sait than done but I firmly believe that people can train themselves to do just that and it becomes easier with time as you get used to it.)

      1. awkward anon*

        I just always feel like I’m the one at fault or I did something wrong. Plus, a very small part of me wonders why he acts this way towards me, but is fine or more comfortable with the other women. He can speak with them. When I would talk, he would be so dismissive of me- he even walked away to avoid me once- but then I would catch him staring at me from a distance. I’m so confused…

        1. Myrin*

          You’re putting way too much mental energy into this guy! Distance, distance, distance!

          (Goodness, I sound like a drill sergeant; I promise I mean this in a kind and helpful way. Don’t let this guy you never even liked much get into your head! His intentions or secret thoughts or whatever don’t matter and aren’t worth guessing about or feeling guilty over. Let him do his thing and try to not pay attention to it. That’s what I meant by “train yourself to ignore him” – I know many people (myself included) tend to want absolute clarity when a situation is perplexing to them, but it’s very often very likely that you won’t ever get that clarity, so the sooner you get yourself to make a mental cut, the better. It’s frustrating, I know, but 100% better for your own mental health.)

          1. awkward anon*

            I know, but it’s easier said than done. I tend to over analyze every situation. I recently hung out with them, I felt awkward, but one of my friend’s pulled me over and sort of saved me. We were talking and laughing about something else, so I forgot about him. I get nervous and tense up around him,but it was nice to laugh with my friend and even though it was still weird, I’m glad I went because there were other people there that I wanted to see and that wanted to see me.

            1. Myrin*

              I believe in you! I’m sure you can do it, and this situation with your friend is an excellent example! It will certainly become less awkward over time!

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          You can’t figure out what’s going on in someone else’s head. Just enjoy your friends and let Steve do whatever it is he does.

      2. Parenthetically*

        I’m seriously not impressed with your friends either.

        I’d honestly talk to a person or two in the group and say, “Hey, what’s with all this Steve awkwardness? You guys know I went out of my way to be friendly, trying to include him in the group and now he’s being all weird to me.”

        And I also highly recommend the “curious anthropologist” approach — oh, Steve is switching seats? How peculiar! What an odd ritual from an awkward, silent person! Steve. What a nut. Bless him and his odd little responses to things!

        1. awkward anon*

          I think one of them was trying to set us up- they would talk him up to me and vice-versa. Again, I thought he hated me and I wasn’t impressed with how moody he was. I’ve had guy friends and known other guys who were like that and no matter what you do or say, they are just moody jerks. I always try and look for the good in the person, even if they seem to dislike me, but it’s frustrating. I’m not perfect, but I don’t deserve to be treated poorly.

          It confuses me though with guys that act like this because I think that I cause it. If I was different, would he magically change? If he is dating this other girl, what is so special about her? Does she know some secret that I don’t? Or will he eventually be moody with her too?

          1. Old Biddy*

            He’s just a moody jerk and your friends are either trying to set you up or they are too invested in having everyone in the extended friend group be BFFs. Don’t take it personally and don’t waste your time puzzling over it. One of the delightful things about getting older is that I no longer worry about this sort of thing.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Guys act like this because they are jerks/shy/immature/whatever.
            Yes, he will eventually get moody with anyone he is with. This is a dude who needs to sort a few things out. Right now he is causing you a bunch of drama that is totally unnecessary. Decide that drama bores you and you are only interested in guys that are focused on healthy relationships. Decide that you do not have time for anyone who cannot “get real”. Decide to stop noticing what he is doing and when he is doing it. Decide to stop discussing it with your friends, not because you want to pretend it’s NBD, but rather because you don’t want this drama crap in your life. Stop discussing it because you are done with the drama. Drama King Dude can find some other woman and make her miserable with his emotional roller coaster, not you.

            1. valentine*

              Steve is a bullet dodged. Look at how much energy he got everyone to give him while speaking only a few (dismissive!) words to you. Steve sounds like the guy in these threads who told everyone he was going to ask out OP and so they told her and she was hoping to shut him down before he made a scene. Either Steve has been talking you up or not telling people to mind their own business (which you can do as well). Either way, I can see why you think it’s you, but it’s all him. He’s choosing how he behaves with everyone and is playing out some fantasy that you can exit anytime. Stick to your more mature friends and discourage this juvenile matchmaking.

          3. Anonomo*

            I would 100% be going to your friends and asking why the heck everyone BUT YOU seem(s/ed) to think yall were a couple. I have seen it happen before, where guy friends “overplay” whats really happening and most people arnt going to come to you with “He said yall had relations last night, did you?!” Or it could be your friends are just SO SURE yall are perfect for each other and they are doing the awkwardness. In either case you can laugh (heartily, like its the funniest thing youve ever heard) and say some version of “Oh really now, me and Steve?! Oh my, you have such an imagination! I can barely stand that pretentious lug!” Hopefully they get the message and start distancing too so it becomes less awkward for you.

          4. Parenthetically*

            “I’m not perfect, but I don’t deserve to be treated poorly.”

            Absolutely. Hang on to this thought, because it’s the truth in the midst of your unwarranted self-blame/doubt. You DON’T deserve to be treated poorly. The question is how to find a way to change your own responses (whether that means talking to your friend group, distancing yourself/taking a break for awhile, or whatever else), because you can’t change Steve. He’s a moody jerk. All the hypotheticals about “what if I were different” are just red herrings for your brain. HE is the problem, not you. If he’s awkward around you, return the awkwardness to sender. HE looks bad, and childish, and silly. I mean honestly, WHO gets up and changes seats to avoid someone? Is this a soap opera or a reality show? Is he going to throw a glass of wine in your face dramatically? Talk about having an over-exaggerated sense of his own importance!

            (Also, here’s some realtalk: some men have made a life choice not to be kind, friendly, or even civil to women they don’t want to sleep with. I know some dudes like this. Hell, I literally had one dude tell me he didn’t understand why he should want to be friends with a girl he wasn’t trying to date. Literally he saw basic civility, conversation, cordiality toward women EXCLUSIVELY as a way to get in their pants. Men like this are sh!t, and should be shunned from all polite society. I get the feeling Steve is a version of this dude, the type who identifies some women as “safe, be polite to them” and other women as “not safe, be a dick to this person” and the categories are utterly random and the results are baffling. Again, THIS. IS. HIS. PROBLEM, not yours.)

    5. Wishing You Well*

      I’d give Steve no more than a mental shrug. If it’s getting too weird, consider skipping some or all get-togethers for now or arrange to see your friends without Steve around. Your gut is telling you something – act on that. Make your gut happier by getting Steve out of your life.
      Reevaluate how good these friends are. Real friends try to help, not make things worse.
      Sorry you’re going through this.

  20. Nervous Accountant*

    Hoping anyone has insight on this or been through it—

    Went to orthopedic dr a few weeks ago. He prescribed pennsaid ointment and gave me a few samples. The office recommended me to a pharmacy they deal with.

    The pharmacy delivered the medicine to my door, no copay, nothing out of pocket. (I believe I hit a deductible or something on my insurance bc I haven’t paid any copays for my meds since October) so while that was nice, it wasn’t unexpected.

    A week later I got a letter saying insurance denied the medication…. after I got it.

    The medicine costs $2000!!!! *faint* An ointment that will wash off 2 minutes later!!!!

    Should I contact the pharmacy about this??? Will I be on the hook for $2k??? I didn’t open it and I have no issue returning it. If I got it for free, great. But I don’t want to be on the hook for a $2k medication that I don’t really need!!!

    1. BRR*

      I’d first call and see if you can return it but they probabaly won’t take it back. I believe you’ll have to appeal it to your insurance company and they’ll be in touch with your doctor. I’d be mad at the pharmacy for delivering a medication without insurance approval.

      1. fposte*

        Agreed with all of this. I definitely think the doctor needs to be looped in, too, so they can factor that in to their recommendation of the pharmacy in future.

    2. Stephanie*

      Oh no! My doctor prescribed an ointment too but was good about telling me that insurance might not cover it. Of course, I can’t get it filled now because my insurance needed authorization from the doctor who has since gone out on maternity leave…

      I would see if you could appeal it.

    3. Dr. Anonymous*

      Call everyone involved–doctor, insurance, pharmacy. It’s very possible it was denied and then approved and the paperwork hasn’t caught up with you yet, but call everyone just in case. This is maddening and I feel for you.

      1. Dr. Anonymous*

        And start with telling the pharmacy that it seems they shipped the medication to you “in error”, since your insurance hasn’t approved it “yet”.

    4. rubyrose*

      Contact everyone you can, as suggested by the others.

      I just have to say – I have never known of a pharmacy that filled a prescription without having all of the payment.
      So if they say you are on the hook for it, press them about their mistake in sending it without having the insurance approval first.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, that’s a point; now I’m wondering if there might actually have been a glitch either in applying a deal or in their thinking that it was about a deal rather than insurance coverage. I’ve had a couple of those deals, and sometimes you have to text in a number or something to participate. Maybe the person NA talked to meant she’d pay $0 after the deal was applied but didn’t explain.

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            Hmm no not that I can recall. The pharmacist called but she said that they applied a coupon or something, I didn’t have to do anything on my end.

            1. Pharmgirl*

              Looks like the Pennsaid Copay card works in addition to your insurance – so the pharmacy would bill your insurance, get a copay, and then bill that copay to the Pennsaid Card to bring the cost to zero. These types of Copay cards generally only work when the insurance pays first, so it’s weird that they’re now saying it’s denied and you owe money. Someone mentioned above that maybe it was denied, but then approved, so I wonder if it could be that? Or the insurance made a mistake in approving the claim when the pharmacy billed for it, which is their own error. I’d ask the pharmacy what third party the prescription claim was billed to.

            2. Dr. Anonymous*

              Some copay cards or other drug company deals also work if your insurance doesn’t cover the medication, so the cost quoted by your insurance explanation of benefits letter may have nothing to do with what you will actually be billed. Do call, but don’t freak out yet. It’s all another sick game in our crazy system. I apologize on behalf of the medical industry.

  21. Travel Wishes*

    I’m looking for suggestions of underrated vacation spots in the USA. We all know the big ones of the Disney parks in Florida and California, casinos in Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and similar places that top the travel guides. I want to know about the little known places that don’t get much recognition.

    For example, I live within driving distance of Atlantic City and Ocean City. When people talk about hitting the beach, they’re usually talking about those places. However, my recommendation is actually for Rehoboth Beach. I don’t see it get nearly as much recommendation but I love it for being a little less populated and a little ‘homier’. It’s where my family always went on vacation when I was a kid and I still love it to this day.

    I also love exploring caverns. Wherever I travel, if I have a chance to explore a cavern, I’m there! I never see people talk about cavern exploration and tours but they’re awesome.

    So please, share an underrated vacation spot that you love!

        1. Stephanie*

          Oh ha, I like White Sands. Albuquerque and Santa Fe neat and there are lots of local mountain ranges to hike. I went to some hot springs about an hour north (I think) of Albuquerque that were stunning.

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          If you like ancient ruins and the like check out Chaco Canyon. It’s pretty remote but it was the center of the Puebloan world up until 1300 or so, and there is a nice loop that you can drive or hike that will take you near most of the major ruins. Plenty of rock art, desert creatures and plants, etc to look at and/or avoid as well. There are also other walking trails to less accessible sites, and at least when I was there they had camping on the grounds.

          Similarly interesting places are Three Rivers (big rock art complex near Tularosa in the southern part of the state) or Petroglyph National Monument (pretty much in a suburb of Albuquerque).

    1. Michigander*

      If you like outdoors vacation spots, I would suggest Michigan’s Upper Pensulia and Mackinac Island. The UP has very scenic beaches, along with Pictured Eocks National Lakeshore. Mackinac Island is a cool (if expensive) place. No cars are allowed on the island, which is a cool experience. There is lots of historical stuff as well as natural stuff to explore.

      1. Recovering Journalist...*

        Thirding this! The UP is wonderful and so is the Lower Peninsula — forests, sand dunes, lakes. It’s a great place to live. (I’m near Flint but grew up in the Detroit suburbs.)

      2. Annie Moose*

        Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes in the Lower Peninsula is another beautiful option! It’s also close to Traverse City (great food, excellent breweries, many cherry-flavored products). Be sure to stop by the little town of Glen Arbor for the cute shops and Cherry Republic, which sells all things cherry-related!

    2. Max Kitty*

      Western South Dakota – in addition to well-known Mt. Rushmore, there’s Badlands NP, Minuteman Missile NHS, Custer State Park, and Jewel and Wind Caves

        1. hermit crab*

          I went to TRNP in September and absolutely loved it. I think I liked it even better than the SD badlands – there is just such a range of interesting landscapes and geological features. The park itself is super accessible and there’s fun stuff to explore for people with all levels of outdoorsiness. I highly, highly recommend it!

        2. Imtheone*

          Yes. Lots of animals to see on drives around the park, herds of buffalo, scenery. And often a variety show to see. We also went to a local pottery while there. Not too far away are interpreted sites of former Native American villages.

      1. StarHunter*

        Second these suggestions. Also instead of going underground at Wind Caves we took a wonderful hike through the rolling prairie lands in the park. Only saw bison. Did not see one other person on the hike. It was great!

    3. Anon anony*

      Galena, IL- It has little shops in the town, and is beautiful to see the autumn leaves in the fall. My family would rent a house in Eagle Ridge. We would stay at Chestnut Mountain Lodge and race down the Alpine Slide and then take the ski lift back up to the Lodge.

      We would also drive into Dubuque, IA and visit the little shops there. (Some of the shops are closed on Sunday and Monday.) We would also ride the Fenelon Place elevator (“The world’s shortest, steepest scenic railway”).

    4. fposte*

      I think just about every area has vacation spots that people in the region enjoy but don’t get people traveling from long distances. Searching “weekend getaway in [state]” generally finds you a lot of those. But I also really like just traveling to a smaller city and getting to know it, and maybe using it as a base for traveling around. So from a midwest standpoint I’d say Kentucky has a lot to offer with Berea, Lexington, etc.; Iowa centering on Iowa City; Illinois has, in addition to Chicago, Galena; Wisconsin around Madison to the south; etc. (And if you like caverns, Kentucky and Tennessee will have you covered, more or less literally.) There are also some really nice state parks–Turkey Run in Indiana, Maumee in Ohio, Starved Rock in Illinois, and so on.

      1. Reba*

        Kentucky has Mammoth Cave!! as well as many other caverns managed for tourists with varying levels of professionalism :) In KY, I also strongly recommend Red River Gorge, which has a lot of different attractions — natural bridges, beautiful river, famous rock climbing, preserved from a dam (with an assist from Wendell Berry).

        Rehoboth is great. We also loved a recent visit to far northern CA and southern Oregon.

      2. Parenthetically*

        Squire Boone Caverns in Southern Indiana is fun! And Spring Mill State Park. GORGEOUS.

        Overall I’d say always head for State Parks and National Forests. Awesome camping and hiking, basic but good infrastructure, and much less busy as a rule than National Parks.

        1. fposte*

          And if you’re not of the camping sort, many of them have nice lodges or cabins, too. We did family Christmas at a state park for several years, and it was packed with people doing the same because the facilities were so good.

      3. JxB*

        New Braunfels, Texas (just north of San Antonio) has a lot to offer, especially in the summer. Natural Bridge Caverns and Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch are nearby. Tubing on the river is a popular past time. Schlitterbahn Waterpark is very popular, especially for families. Like any amusement park, tickets aren’t cheap but they allow you to take in coolers. So you can bring your own food and picnic with something other than over-priced concession food. Gruene Hall offers country music as Texas’ “oldest continually operating and most famous dance hall.” San Antonio – with a great variety of tourist attractions – is about 30 minutes away and Austin about 45 minutes.

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I spent the night in the Lost Sea caves in TN once after a delightful spelunking tour crawling through cracks and crannies. Tons of fun if you are fit and not claustrophobic. I think it’s group pricing though.

    6. Lily Evans*

      Acadia National Park in Maine. It’s one of the smaller national parks, but it’s so gorgeous. It’s located on an island which also includes adorable little New England seaside towns. It can get fairly busy during high season in the summer, but there are a lot of overlooked places within the park since most tourists stick to the same popular spots. My family went almost every year growing up, so it holds a special place in my heart/

    7. Ranon*

      Hocking Hills Ohio, Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas are both beautiful. For caverns Texas Hill Country has a bunch that are open to the public.

    8. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Northwest Oregon – we drove up the coast one year and stayed in a yurt in Cannon Beach. Its a very beautiful drive and just like all the fabulous scenery in Northern California but less crowded/bit more down to earth.

      Would also suggest Door County, WI – the finger bit sticking out. Okok it can be really touristy, but its also very pretty. My great aunt and uncle had a holiday home there for years and we would spend a long weekend each summer up there.

    9. Blue*

      Don’t know if it’s underrated, but Port Angeles and nearby Olympic National Park on the Washington coast are great!

    10. Gingerblue*

      If you’re in New York, Letchworth park is small but extremely beautiful, with an impressive river gorge.

    11. Unnamed Road Tripper*

      Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.

      Canyonlands National Park in Utah (Arches gets the publicity but Canyonlands is also spectacular)

      Wavelands, ME was a great low-key place to spend a week near/on a beach and only an hour from New Orleans for day trips into the City.

      Andersonville National POW Museum in GA. We only had a couple hours, and needed a couple days there.

      1. Max Kitty*

        There’s a new national historic site somewhat in the vicinity of Craters of the Moon – Minidoka Internment National Historic Site. It’s a Japanese internment camp from World War II.

        And we also loved City of Rocks National Reserve in southern Idaho.

    12. Emily*

      On the note of caverns, I went with my family as a kid to visit Luray Caverns in Virginia. I have no idea if it’s underrated or not, but it made a big impression on me – especially the Great Stalacpipe Organ, which makes sounds using stalactites.

      Someone posted here a while back (maybe even around last Christmas/the New Year?) about visiting Helen, Georgia with their child, and though I’ve never been there, it sounded like fun. A Bavarian alpine town in the Southeastern United States? Sounds anatopistic, but also delightful.

    13. Doreen Green*

      My family always did Wildwood. :)

      I second New Mexico. It is beautiful! The Carlsbad Caverns are very impressive, and you can also witness a bat flight or go on nighttime star-gazing hikes. The nearby Guadalupe Mountains National Park (in Texas) has a lot of trails–and a fossil reef!

    14. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Edited to add: somehow this didn’t get posted when I wrote it…but it was still onscreen so what the heck.
      —–
      Dayton Ohio for any air&space geeks like me — Wright Brothers and the USA Museum.
      Connecticut packs a lot into a little space. Mark Twain’s home, next door to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s home. Noah Webster’s house. Colonial sites galore. Gillet Castle and the Essex Steam Train. State parks galore for dayhikes… Hamonassett on the Long Island Sound, Devil’s Hopyard, Mount Tom, Wadsworth Falls, Kent Falls. Mystic Seaport. The Mashantucket Pequot Museum at Foxwoods and the American Indian Archaeological Institute in the rural northwest corner. Hill-Stead House Museum, with art masterpieces that never travel. New England Air Museum. The Carousel Museum. U.Connecticut’s arboretum. Motorboats, sailboats, kayaks, and canoes are out on state waters….the replica Amistad is one of them.
      No one is so verbose except a convert I guess…and before I met my husband, I had only been here for football games and driving through to somewhere else.

  22. WellRed*

    It’s almost 5o degrees here today. I actually dragged myself out for a walk and was rewarded with the latest Virgil Flowers novel at the library. Yay! As to Alison’s book recommends, I only read Evergreen Tidings which I didn’t love. It was hard to fathom the Shocking News! It really wasn’t all that shocking. I did like the plot line involving her friend’s laidoff executive husband.

  23. Augusta Sugarbean*

    Any e-reader owners here? I thinking about getting one but I’m having a little trouble sorting out the options. A friend has a Kindle Paperwhite and I’m leaning towards that. My main requirement is it needs to be Overdrive compatible. What kind do people have and what do you like/dislike about it? Thank you!

    1. Cookie Monster*

      I just bought a Kindle this past January and it’s changed my life. I READ SO MANY BOOKS NOW. It’s especially great because instead of lugging four physical books on vacation, I can just check out as many as I want. All Kindles are Overdrive compatible, and I have the most basic one. It’s nice, long battery life, but my only complaint is that the most basic format has no backlight. I’m considering upgrading soon to the newest Kindle Paperwhite, which is supposed to have even more storage, and a backlight and even longer battery life. If you don’t want to spend a lot right now, the most basic Kindle is a great option but if you’re willing to splurge a little more, I’d go for the new Paperwhite.

      1. hermit crab*

        I was originally skeptical of e-readers because I am kind of a curmudgeon and like “real” books, gosh darn it – but my mom (a librarian!) bought me one a few years back and I love it for exactly that reason. I used to have legit “what if I run out of things to read” anxiety but now I live in a world where that is no longer a thing, even if it is midnight or Christmas or if I’m sitting on the tarmac in an airplane.

        To answer the actual question- I have an older-model Kindle Paperwhite and it’s great! I don’t think it has a ton of space but I only read library books so that’s not an issue for me.

        1. Gatomon*

          This was me! I finally caved and got the basic Kindle for technical books like CCNA R&S. Not only are they cheaper as e-books, but no 10 lb tomes taking up space.

          I have Prime so I started reading a few things on Prime reading, turns out it’s really pleasant to read on the Kindle. It’s light and GREAT for travel and automatically saves your spot and syncs with your phone or PC (if you install the Kindle app). You can adjust the font, justification and font size too. I really like that they have the OpenDyslexic font available.

          I prefer the non-backlit version because it’s easier on my eyes. Backlights give me headaches. My local BestBuy has a display of all the versions if you want to see them in person. You do have to pay $20 to remove the ads, but they are just ads for other books. I decided to pay when I decided to use it for pleasure reading as well.

          I think it is worth it to get the cover to protect the screen. I bought a refurb Kindle and a refurb cover, both were in fine condition. I have since chipped a corner of the cover somehow, but I cart my Kindle to work and back daily so I figured accidents would happen. If/when it breaks I’ll get a new one.

          I can’t speak to Overdrive but I have gotten PDFs on there easily.

    2. Ey-not-Cy*

      I love my Kindle Oasis, its screen is a bit bigger than the Paperwhite. But it is expensive, and the battery life isn’t as long as I’d like it to be. (I tend to read for a few hours a night.) I’d recommend the Paperwhite for a newbie. It has a great soft backlight that is adjustable. All of the kindles are Overdrive/Libby compatible. When you set up the Overdrive account there is a question it asks about where you will read. If you want to listen to audiobooks from Overdrive on your Kindle, you will need a Fire tablet or Oasis, or your phone. I love having a few hundred books in my purse. I’m a high school librarian who reads every night, and anywhere if I have some down time. Doctor running late? No problem, I’ve got book options!

    3. Tipcat*

      Check with your local library to see which brands they support. Mine has e-books for Nook but not Kindle.

    4. Autumnheart*

      I’ve had a Nook for years (current model is the GlowLight 3) and just asked for the latest Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas. I preferred Nook for the EPUB format, but using Calibre to convert files to your preferred format is easy enough.

      Since my Nook is getting old (well, it IS old, but I replaced the battery), I wanted to wait until the features on the Kindle PW were attractive enough for me to want to switch. The PW now has: support for Audible, 8 to 32GB of storage, Bluetooth integration, is fully waterproof (no more worries about accidentally dropping it in the tub), and if you use Libby (by Overdrive) for your library, it can send books directly to your Kindle, as opposed to sideloading them via computer. All of these features were compelling enough for me to make the jump.

      I personally prefer a lack of backlight, and from what I understand, you can only dim the backlight on the PW to its lowest setting, but not turn it off entirely. You also get ads on the screensaver which you actually have to PAY to remove, which is insane. Well, that’s capitalism for you. But I really look forward to being able to take advantage of Kindle Unlimited and the Overdrive compatibility.

      1. Annie Moose*

        Yes, you’re right on both of the things in your final paragraph. You can’t turn the backlight off and there are ads unless you pay to remove them. But they’re pretty unobtrusive and I got used to them quite quickly. (sometimes you get really humorous suggestions, too!)

    5. Annie Moose*

      I had a Paperwhite for years and adored it. I recently upgraded to the Voyage this summer—basically the same device, but with more storage space, a somewhat improved interface, etc.

      The parts I love best about both the Paperwhite and Voyage are the endless battery life (they’re sooo good) and their incredibly portability. They fit in any bag or purse, they’re usable in everything from direct sunlight to total darkness, and they’re ridiculously sturdy. I take mine to the beach, camping, when traveling by car or plane, I’ve dropped it repeatedly onto every kind of surface, and it’s taken it like a trooper. I only upgraded because after years of use, the old one was starting to be finicky about charging and the backlight had gotten a little uneven.

      As you can tell, I’m a real believer!!

    6. The Other Dawn*

      Any objections to reading books on your smartphone? I downloaded the Kindle app to my Samsung and have Overdrive on it too. I have a Kindle but I find I prefer using my phone. No extra devices to carry around.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I vastly prefer the ereader because it is closer to paper (not a backlit screen, so it’s easier on the eyes and doesn’t cause problems reading before bed), and because the screen is larger than the cellphone. It also has a much longer battery life, and handles being dropped fairly well. Also, I can only read on it – there’s no distractions. And unlike a tablet, I can hold it in one hand comfortably while standing on the subway.

        I switched over about 6 years ago, and have one of the older Kindle models (pre light and touch screen). I’ve used it so much I’ve worn off the finish. A prime motivation for me is that I live overseas, and this gives me access to English books without international shipping. Plus space considerations.

        Kindle vs Nook is a choice of platform. You cannot read a Kindle book on a Nook and vice versa without techniques which may or may not be legal where you are. Amazon only sells Kindle books. Check your local library to see what they provide.

        One other advantage to eReaders is the wealth of public domain books you can get on Project Gutenberg or Faded Page (for those in Canada). Those books come in both formats.

      2. Windchime*

        The font is too small on my phone. I know I can adjust it, but then I am scrolling every few words.

        I love having the backlight on the Kindle. I like to read in bed in the dark, so I turn down the backlight to be pretty dim and it works great.

    7. tab*

      I have a Kindle Fire, and I love that I can take a dozen books on vacation with me. I love that I can read about a book anytime and any place and immediately request it from my library. I also love that I can use it as a small laptop with a 2nd party keyboard/cover and leave my laptop at home on leisure trips. One thing I don’t love is that if I use it first thing in the morning, I have trouble focusing on distant objects (like road signs) for the first few hours of the day. I think it’s odd, because I don’t have that problem with my laptop. But I just use it in the afternoon or evening. I’m in my early sixties, so it may be one of the many benefits of aging…

    8. Super Anon Right Now*

      I hope it’s okay to springboard off this for a comment I desperately need to make.

      It is so weird to see people talking about OverDrive, because it was way more obscure when I worked there a couple of decades ago. And as one of the many overworked, underpaid employees who survived that toxic landfill, I sincerely hope Steve Potash steps on a pile of Legos tomorrow.

      (Do not let my rant affect your Kindle purchases. Ebooks are awesome, and working on them was hugely satisfying. I just needed to vent.)

    9. Snow Drift*

      What makes it desirable versus the Kindle app on a tablet? Is the special screen that much easier on the eyes? I’ve heard mixed reviews.

      1. Dear liza dear liza*

        Speaking for myself, my eyes fatigue quicker when I read on my phone or iPad. The Paperwhite is much easier to read.
        Also, if I’m on a device, I find it too easy to bounce over to the Web to “just check something.” Of course, I fall down a rabbit hole and start surfing. To really enjoy reading, I need to get immersed. My Kindle is great for that.

      2. Annie Moose*

        I read using both. The Paperwhite is just easier. It’s easier on the eyes, it’s much more usable in direct sunlight (it literally is like reading a print book, NO glare), it’s water-resistant so I don’t worry about it at the beach, and it’s a much larger screen than my phone. Because there’s not really a flicker from the backlight as a phone has, it is easier on the eyes, even when you’re reading for a lengthy period of time.

        Even though I do both (depending on what’s available/convenient for me), I much prefer reading on my Kindle.

    10. CurrentlyLooking*

      I have an iPad mini and I love it. It is very easy to use Overdrive (and their Libby app) on it and of course you can also read AAM on it (and email, apps, games etc. if you have an iPhone you can also use it to text or take phone calls)

    11. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Thank you everyone! I actually checked out both a Paperwhite and a Nook today. I liked the e-ink look and figured it wouldn’t bother my eyes like reading on an iPad/iPhone/laptop screen. I had really mixed feelings about having yet another electronic device and actually am sort of relieved that I didn’t like either. The Paperwhite has a super annoying (to me at least) flicker when it transitions from page to page. The salesperson said it was noticeable when there were images on the page but it didn’t entirely go away when it was only text. The Nook was only okay and the flicker was less but I read that there are some steps to go through to convert Kindle books to a Nook-readable format. A fair number of the books I might buy are up and coming sci fi authors who are tending to publish via Kindle and I honestly don’t want to futz with file conversion.

      Thanks again everyone!

      1. Gingerblue*

        As an SF fan looking for something new, I’d love to hear more about what authors you’re planning to read if you have the time.

        1. Augusta Sugarbean*

          Robert Kroese (absolutely loving the Mercury series, similar to Christopher Moore)
          Robert Reid (Year Zero is a fun, fast read)
          Jack McDevitt (I found Seeker on one of my reading lists but don’t recall anything about it tbh)
          Larry Correia (Monster Hunters series are goofy shoot-em-ups)
          Joe Abercrombie (The Blade Itself was recommended to me)
          Sylvain Neuvel (I sped through Sleeping Giant in two days and am looking forward to the next two in the series).

          I’m realizing now that some of these prob aren’t really “up and coming” so much as “new to me” but they aren’t the big name, been around forever, Heinlein types either.

          1. Gingerblue*

            Awesome, thank you so much for the recs! I’ve been really stuck in a rut book-wise and I’m homing to fix that over the holidays.

    12. Pharmgirl*

      I LOVE my Kindle Paperwhite. I took a long time to switch to e-readers because they hurt my eyes, and I prefer hard copies. But with the paperwhite it’s like reading a book, not like looking at an electronic screen. And it’s definitely compatible with overdrive (that’s what my library uses).

    13. Windchime*

      I have a Kindle paperwhite that I’ve had for 4 or 5 years and I absolutely love it. I read before bed every night and I only have to charge it maybe once a month. My library system uses Overdrive and I don’t have a problem with borrowing books at all. I love that it is backlit and I can adjust the font size and can dim it down for nighttime reading. I have a little protective case for it and it automatically “wakes up” when I flip open the cover.

      I’ve barely read an actual paper book since I got my Paperwhite, and I was one of those people who always said that I loved a real book best. Nope. Now I love my Kindle best.

    14. Minocho*

      Also, there is a waterproof Kindle Paperwhite coming out. I have the waterproof Oasis kindle, and not having to worry about an e-reader when reading the tub is amazing. Pool / seaside reading would be better too, I bet!

  24. Stephanie*

    Etiquette question–so I’m an amateur musician (cello) who lives in an apartment. The adjacent apartment was empty for the last two months. New neighbors moved in. I have a practice mute and don’t play past 8 pm. Our apartment building is also 100 years old, so while it’s not soundproof, we’ve got plaster walls. While not a professional, I’m a pretty decent cellist who’s been playing on and off for 20 years, so (mostly) good sounds come out the instrument. But practicing can admittedly get annoying.

    Should I leave a note? If so, what should it say?

    1. BRR*

      I have a friend who gave their neighbors their cell phone number in case their practicing was ever at a bad time.

    2. WellRed*

      Can you introduce yourself in person and then bring this up and ask them to let you know if there are any problems? I find most reasonable people are just happy to understand what the “noise” and be reassured that theres a stopping point.

    3. Research Division*

      I wouldn’t leave a note. I’d go over and introduce myself, welcome them to the building, and explain the situation. Find out if they’ve noticed it, if it’s bothered them etc. Then I’d leave them my cell phone number so they could text me if my practicing was disturbing them.

      The quality of your playing isn’t really an issue so I’d leave that out. Noise is disruptive and annoying no matter what.

      1. Stephanie*

        I’ve actually met them already! Seem like nice, reasonable people. But yeah, I’ll go over and use your suggestion and pass along my info.

      2. Rhymes with Mitochondria*

        I think the quality matters! I’ve lived in shared buildings with a teenager learning the trumpet and a professional violinist, and there’s a HUGE difference between actual music (generally full songs at a time) and squeaking out short phrases over and over and over and over.
        My current neighbor’s son is a drummer in a marching band….he’s good but it’s marching band drums. They’re great about times when they do it and will stop if I need him to (like if I’ve worked a graveyard and he wakes me up) so that’s just part of shared living spaces.

    4. Green Kangaroo*

      No advice, but I’d love to have you as my neighbor…I adore the cello. My daughter is a fairly accomplished pianist, and we live near a popular ice cream parlor. On many warm nights there is a crowd of people lingering on the sidewalk, listening to her practice while eating their treats. It’s really lovely to see them enjoying the music.

      1. Merci Dee*

        That’s such a lovely image. It definitely makes me smile to imagine them quietly eating ice cream while they enjoy a little “found” show.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Agree with the suggestion of going over and giving them your info. Also, I love the cello; I would be far more irritated by a horn or wind instrument. I’ve had way too many neighbors in my day who made noise and didn’t care (like my recent neighbors who got a drum kit and practiced with the door open), so I would be very appreciative of someone who showed concern, used a practice mute, and actually listened if I asked politely for the sound to stop after a couple of hours.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I think a decently capable cellist is about the least annoying musician neighbor possible. The tones are pitched low enough not to shriek at you but not so low as to rumble, and you’re past that awkward scratchy stage, so even scales are kind of soothing. And the actual music is lovely.

        Doesn’t help Stephanie since we’re not her neighbors, but I think she has a high chance of a good neighbor response.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, it’s not drums. I was thinking along the same lines that they might actually enjoy it. They might ask Stephanie if she could play at dinner time so they could have a candlelight meal with a free cello concert.

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      Honestly, the fact that you’re even concerned at all that you might be annoying your neighbors makes you a good neighbor. If you don’t practice past 8pm and if you’re not horribly out of tune (not sure what “amateur musician” means in terms of how you sound), I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

    7. StarHunter*

      My neighbor upstairs was an accomplished jazz guitarist. So many times I wanted to tell him keep playing! He was quite good. I’m guessing the neighbors won’t mind the music :-)

    8. Stephanie*

      Thanks for the advice, everyone! When I say amateur, I mean no one is paying me to play*. I’m long past the scratchy stage and have at least learned a lot of the standard cello repertoire. I’m in a community orchestra that does a lot of standard classical repertoire (things like the symphonies by all the big composers). But yeah, keeping it up means I need to practice, which can be annoying if I’m working on one part repeatedly (or if it’s something that sounds weird out of context or is more modern).

      *Although I did just start a string quartet and we’re trying to figure out how we can gig (especially for weddings), so…

      1. soupmonger*

        Let them know you have a stop time, and keep to it. It honestly doesn’t matter if you are a decent player or not. My ex-neighbour was a pianist, and would practice pieces over, and over, and over, and over again. It got me to screaming point until I asked him to please set a stop time. It worked – although I didn’t set him a start time…

        1. Stephanie*

          Yeah, the stop time is totally fair. And I get the annoyance re hearing the same thing rehearsed over and over. I’ll let them know it’d never be past a certain hour.

          1. valentine*

            Put a whiteboard on your door: “Requests x:00-y:00,” with five blank lines.

            The cello’s my fave.

    9. Phoenix Programmer*

      I feel for you. I tried to pick up the acoustic guitar after my neighbors rioted when I pulled out the trombone.

      Same neighbors play loud bass music on the stereo all the time but for some reason a trombone is much worse. :^

    10. Kuododi*

      Oh my gosh!!! You are so thoughtful of your neighbors. When DH and I were starting out we would have paid bribe $$$ for someone like you to be living near us in our apt complex. (Our upstairs neighbors had a speaker the size used in major rock concerts and loved to play dance party and/or hip-hop 24/7.) Long story short, after trying the friendly neighbor approach, involving apt mgmt, an attorney friend writing a cease and desist letter and calling local police….we had apt mgmt move us at their expense. You sound delightful and I personally love cello music. Best regards

  25. Junior Dev*

    Mental health thread! How are you doing? What are you struggling with? What are you proud of?

    I thought I posted before but the site ate it.

    I’m struggling with self esteem, energy, and low mood. I just feel awful a lot. My psychiatrist doesn’t want to adjust my meds til I’ve been at my new job longer, but I suspect they are not really working for me and have not been for a while.

    Proud of biking to work Thursday and making social plans this weekend.

    How are you doing?

    1. StellaBella*

      Hi there! I am sorry you are feeling low and dealing with the medications. Hang in there. Well done on biking to work!

      This week is a mixed bag – final move out very deep cleaning, and final trip to old place. Trying to read Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming – finally have time tonight to start it. Looking forward to a new book.

    2. KatieKate*

      I spent the week reaching out to therapists, and the ones I actually heard back from aren’t taking any new clients. I am… frustrated, to say the least. Am I doing something wrong? I’m just filling out inquiries on the ones who have websites and directly emailing the ones who don’t. This is scary enough as it is, and I don’t have a therapist to discuss it all with (oh, the irony).

      1. Bluebell*

        I have had a tough time with that too. Started looking last month and my first visit is Monday. Initially I was hoping to see a second person and make a decision which to see, but person 2 was really difficult to schedule.

    3. 653-CXK*

      This week turned out to be much better than past weeks. I got out of the house and did errands Monday (buying stamps) and Thursday (picking up meds), had another job interview with another agency, might be hearing for a prospective interview next week, and went to the doctor’s for the first time in a year. I thought I would hate the new office, but it’s much more convenient to public transportation. The one panic I had – I forgot to send my pharmacy my new insurance info, and I nearly paid $258 for 30 days worth of prescriptions. I ended up paying $8 once the info was re-entered.

      Today really pissed me off in terms of restaurants. Backstory: each weekend, I like to take time off and head to a good restauarant/fast casual for lunch…but you never, ever go there at noon – everyone gets the same idea and it’s a zoo. I went to a deli that I’ve come to like a lot, but a group of people (tourists?) decided to order everything in the store, and the poor cashier didn’t get any support from any of the other employees. Thus, I put my Dr. Brown’s and chips back and walked out. Then I went to a bagel place, and three college age girls couldn’t make up their goddamn minds. I’m thinking, “OK, I can make an order” but she came back and encroached my space as if to shove me away with an invisible hand. I walked out again…but the third time was a charm as I got food from another restaurant – local, a little crowded but comfortable, and quickly served.

      I’m currently waiting for two responses back: one from an agency that has a two month contract with possible extension, and another with a six month contract with a possible permanent placement. I should hear back from them soon.

    4. SparklingStars*

      I’m proud of getting lots of exercise for the past few weeks – I’ve started going to Zumba classes now that the weather is too cold for walking outside. Also my social life has been fairly good lately!

      I’m struggling (a lot!) with eating healthy. I seem to be craving junk food a lot more than usual, and I can’t figure out why. It doesn’t help that I really dislike cooking, so it’s not hard for me to talk myself into eating junk for dinner rather then cook a nutritious meal. My New Year’s resolution is going to have to be to start eating better.

    5. Student with mental health disabilities*

      Struggling with anxiety related to the place we don’t discuss on weekends. DREADING going in tomorrow :(

      Proud of not having had a meltdown at said place in a while.

  26. Mobiler*

    I need some diy help! I live in a mobile home that has wall strips throughout. We moved in a year ago when the mobile home was brand new. However, some of the wall strips are literally falling off. We rent and I could ask them to fix, but since it’s not causing issues with us living here, we get put at the bottom of a very long maintenance list(months out waiting). It’s an eyesore and I have children who I don’t want ruining the walls. I’ve looked on google and all I can find is how to remove and put new wall in which I don’t want to do.

    How do I reattach them?? Help please!

    1. RunnerGirl*

      IIRC from my 10 years in the trailerhood, they were just tacked on and the small holes from the tacks puttied over. You can buy a stapler that handles either staples (useful for other things) or tacks (what you need for this project) at Lowes, Home Depot, etc. No need for a pricey pneumatic finish nailer or anything like that.

    2. Free Meerkats*

      When I was renting, I never fixed things unless the landlord gave me permission.

      The mobile home is less than a year old, might still be under warranty. Mention that when you notify the owner of the problem.

      1. WellRed*

        Yeah. I have no idea what you mean by wall strips but a halfway decent landlord wants to fix things before they become expensive priorities.

  27. Rebecca*

    I visited the friend who took me in for nearly a year this AM, and we had coffee, and I helped her do some things around the house, it was so nice to go back, sit in my seat at the table, and visit my Christmas cactus (it’s doing well, just hadn’t moved it yet). I had a stack of mail, mostly junk mail, so I spent time this morning opting out of things at that address and my former address.

    Two weird things have happened. The first was a letter from a local municipal tax office, addressed to my ex husband at my friend’s house’s address where I stayed after leaving him. I didn’t open it. I wrote a letter telling them that this isn’t his address, it never was his address, and maybe they could reach him at his sister’s address. Ugh. I know he’s hiding from creditors so this was probably a way for him to deflect for a while.

    The second thing is I went to my old house, got things out of the mailbox there, and thankfully that’s gotten less and less as the weeks go on, but there was a 5×7 brown envelope, with something sort of thick or sturdy inside, addressed to him, from “Jane Smith” and I didn’t recognize the address, so I just wrote on it, return to sender, no longer at this address. Yesterday I went for a walk in the daylight, and noticed that one of the mailboxes right next to my Mom’s yard had this same name and address on it. So, my neighbor’s wife mailed my ex husband something at our old address. I’m thinking about just saying, oh hey, saw that in the mailbox, and just noticed that’s your address. I never really paid attention before, it’s just that I saw it and it clicked in my head. This is very curious to me.

    I spent yesterday “adulting” as I like to say, took the day off and applied for a passport, did car insurance stuff, went to the sheriff’s office to make sure my conceal carry permit didn’t need to be updated with my new address, got name change paperwork from the courthouse, only a $25 fee, and I don’t have to get my attorney involved. Going to do that once I get my passport and new driver’s license, that seems counter-intuitive but PA is not real ID compliant, and I will need a passport or real ID to fly, and I learned the name change if done within a year won’t cost me anything for my passport. I’m in no real hurry but I want to get rid of my married name.

    I got a lot done, I think I have all the cats herded so to speak, looking forward to meeting people and making new friends. I think I said before, I’m quite lonely and hadn’t realized how isolated I’d become. I guess when you’re in a bad situation, you just put your head down and go into survival mode and that’s it, you don’t think about reaching out, making friends, etc.

    On to 2019! Honestly, 2017 and 2018 were miserable.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yep survival mode is doing just the basics necessary to get through the situation. You had to do that, no choice. You have a very high self-awareness so I am sure that you will be able to move yourself to a less isolated spot in life very soon. And we see here that you are very likable so people will invite you to do things with them. My aunt told me, “tell them yes”. She said (and she is right) people only ask a few times then they stop. If you can’t say yes for Reasons, offer an alternative activity you and they can do together.
      Parts of life are going to get easier now.

      1. Rebecca*

        I had a neat experience this afternoon after I wrote the post! I’ve been walking around my childhood neighborhood, it’s weird, many of the houses are the same but people are different, so I always say Hi to people, comment on their dogs, smile, and talk, and tell them who I am, etc. Many of them knew my Dad or of him, so I tell them my maiden and married names, I’m living with Mom now in the same house, etc. And that’s if they want to chat, I don’t hold people hostage and barrage them with info :)

        So today, I talked to a young man who moved back to take care of his Mom who has cancer, and we had a long conversation. He likes to bike and hike like I do, he also went through a divorce, and left his home with very little, etc. He also heads up one of the volunteer orgs here, and asked me if I was involved in any volunteer organizations, as he said that helped him get out among people after his divorce. I said I hadn’t thought I had the physical or emotional energy for that before, but I think I will now, and will look into it. We exchanged phone# and chatted some more, and it was nice to know other people are going through the same things. I’ll make a point to keep in touch, and hope we can get a short hike in, it is December in rural PA after all, so not ideal weather, and hopefully get some bike riding in if all works out when the weather gets warm.

        I talked to a few other people briefly today, too, about their dogs. I’m not going to meet people or make friends camped out in the basement watching Hulu, that’s for sure.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          ooooo–it’s already starting, good for you. Keep following these little tips and conversations. When people see they can offer suggestions and you are okay with that, then they bring you more suggestions. Good stuff.

    2. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      2019 will be better. You have done a wonderful, great job of growing and moving past a tough situation… and been an inspiration to all of us.
      Here’s to “your” name and adulting!

        1. Rebecca*

          I really want to visit the UK at some point, no firm plans right now, so I’m getting a passport. I have the instructions for Real ID from PennDOT. I may or may not get it. Plus, there will be a push for everyone to apply all at once, so having the passport will allow me to do what I need to do until I decide.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is a lovely, positive update!

      As for the loneliness thing, not sure where in PA you are, but if it’s near Pittsburgh, maybe we could arrange to meet for coffee sometime :)

      1. Rebecca*

        That sounds lovely! I’m smack dab in the middle of rural PA, between my beloved Nittany Lions and the Home of Little League Baseball, to give you a geographical hint :), so about 3 1/2 hours away from Pittsburgh. It’s beautiful here, nature wise, but pretty much soul draining and sort of miserable otherwise. High addiction rates, high poverty rates, few decent job opportunities, etc. Once I get my Mom squared away I hope to leave PA all together.

  28. Bibliovore*

    Thank you everyone for last weeks comments. As I mentioned, I am trying to get a “w./life” balance. I did go to the sketch night at the museum. Had difficulty letting go of the “things that I should be doing” I did stay and hour and half. Been a crazy week. Big projects on tight deadlines.
    Today- did the grocery shopping. got stuff for a potluck tonight. Keeping it simple smoked salmon with fixings. Laundry, reading.
    Tomorrow roasting a chicken and having some friends over for Bruce Springsteen on Netflix.

  29. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Writing thread! How’s everyone’s writing going?
    As for this week’s question, perhaps the hardest one of all: when do you decide your writing project is finished and ready to be shown to the world? Because, let’s face it, it will never be perfect.
    This is probably the thing I struggle with the most, to be honest.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      1. I’m 70K+ and very close to being done–if I get past this crazy chapter, I should finish before Christmas. It would take longer if I were working. Even though I started NaNoWriMo on this sequel with 15K words, it cheers me considerably to realize I can actually write a first draft in two months if I have time.

      The chapter in question has two physicists trying to explain something physics-y to someone who doesn’t know, being written by someone who doesn’t get it, LOL. I’ll have to find someone to look it over after revision!

      2. When I’ve edited and polished and had feedback and the feedback (from other writers, preferably) has almost no corrections. The more I do this, the more I learn. I hope I reach the point where my first drafts are cleaner and don’t require so much rewriting.
      But really, the only book you can’t edit is the one on the shelf. I’ve resisted the urge to go back and do that with my e-book. It’s already out there; people have it; I can’t really change it now.

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      After two long weeks, I’ve finally finished the chapter that’s been giving me trouble. It’s really stopped the progress of the rest of it because I thought it was going to be about one thing, but that didn’t work so I had to change it and it’s been like pulling teeth. I’m so glad I’ve got it done so I can move on. This happened last time as well with the first one – I’d get to chapter seven or eight and just have an awful time with it.

    3. Chaordic One*

      Not going well.

      When I’m not at work I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to get things done for Christmas and I’ve also been busy attending a lot of holiday parties (most of which have been suprisingly pleasant).

      Sometimes it is so hard to find time to do all the things that I’d like to, but… life.

    4. LilySparrow*

      I’ve been writing more for job stuff that my own, so not satisfied with that at all.

      But for the “when is it ready” issue, I outline first, so I know when the story has been told. Then set draft 1 aside for a couple of weeks. Then I do a read thru. If I think it’s on the right track, that becomes an edit pass and work my notes. Or if it’s gone horribly wrong, I see if there’s anything I can salvage and do a rewrite. Then I let my alpha reader /crit partner see it, and work those notes. Then I have a team of 4-5 beta readers whose taste I trust, and work those notes. Then finally off to my editor, and then a final proof.

      That sounds more clean than it feels. But I don’t think you can know if it “works” until you get feedback, so I have cultivated some relationships where I can risk failing without embarrassment.

  30. Still (in love)*

    I posted two weeks ago that I thought my relationship was over. Turns out it was. It was almost a year long and I thought this was it- it seemed like the one I’d been searching for this whole time. I knew it was a little bit rocky the last month but feel blindsided. There wasn’t much reason at all to predict it ending especially since we were actively working on things together. So many feelings, so so so sad. I’m mid-30s and just so tired of this process of getting to know someone, getting excited and then having it fall apart. It’s exhausting and heart wrenching.

    Anyway, if you have any post-breakup self care tips or suggestions to make it through the holidays that would be lovely.

    1. Not A Manager*

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this. My one bit of advice for the holidays is to try to keep in mind that you are living authentically.

      I think one of the worst parts of the “wait to break up until after the holiday/birthday/anniversary” concept is that the person who’s broken up with (and maybe blindsided) has to create a whole new narrative about those happy holiday moments. Thought you were having fun? Thought things were working out? Wrong!! Someone was just playing a part so that you could feel crappy on Dec. 26 instead of on Dec. 25. (I do understand that there are kind and loving reasons that people sometimes do this, but still…)

      I feel like I’m not saying this well. But for me, I think I’d rather feel sad over the holiday knowing that this is my reality and it won’t always be my reality and I’m moving forward, than be having some kind of Potemkin Village Christmas that will sneak up on me later.

      Best wishes to you. I hope you can do some nice self-care, and that you have some people in your life to be supportive.

      1. Not A Manager*

        In terms of self-care, I think the best thing you can do is be your own loving friend. That means that you say the same things to yourself that you’d say to a hurting friend – no negative self-talk, no chewing over a bunch of what-ifs. And it also means doing the nice things for yourself that you’d do for a friend. Maybe ice cream and movies, or a hot bath with candles, etc.

        But it also means that just like you’d tell your friend that it’s time to take a shower and put on some clean clothes because she’ll feel better, you say that same thing to yourself. You remind yourself that there’s a time for a tub of ice cream, and there’s also a time for a balanced meal and some yoga.

        I hope you’ll check in on next week’s thread.

      2. Jean (just Jean)*

        May I please borrow your image of a Potemkin Village life event that adds injury to insult (after posing as false scenery, it sneaks up behind to do additional harm)? These situations are _horrible_ but your description is absolutely brilliant. Ditto your advice:
        a) If life hands you lemons, no sense pretending they are peaches or cherries or whatever else might be sweeter.
        b) Yes, there’s a time for self-indulgence and a time for self-encouragement to Do Better Even if it seemingly involves Delayed Gratification. Although I actually enjoy eating vegetables if my palate isn’t all bent out of shape by too much sugar.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I told a family member I was making lemonade with all these lemons.
          Family member quickly replied, “Aim higher, make sorbet.”
          The truth is that almost every setting offers opportunities that other settings do not offer. The hard part is looking up and looking around for those opportunities. It’s easier to pull the covers over our heads.
          I opted for a mix, some days were covers over my head days and other days were go outside and look for opportunities days. Both activities have value as both activities are necessary for good health in the long run.
          OP, this is grief and this is processing grief. We do the best we can each day until the new normal sets in.
          Talk gently to yourself and let yourself be human.

    2. Jean (just Jean)*

      I’m sorry you’re going through this, even if Not A Manager summarized things so vividly.
      Sometimes all we can do is keep on slogging…but it helps to be nice to ourselves, such as starting each day’s slog in warm socks and dry boots.

  31. anon for the weekend*

    I hate being single around the holidays (and also weddings and other parties). I’m always the only single person at holiday parties with friends and it’s horrible.

    I’m generally fine with being single, and I enjoy going to dinner or movies or theatre shows by myself. But it’s always depressing to go to holiday parties and events, or weddings, or other situations where everyone is with a partner and I’m alone. And it’s awkward when it comes to seating because everything is an uneven number, or when people casually ask about the people in my life, or when people inevitably just stay with their partners and I’m left as the third wheel. I’m in my early 30s and this time of the year always makes me feel worse for being alone because it’s so hard to find someone, and dating is such a grueling process.

    I hate it, and it’s miserable, and I’m avoiding all holiday parties this year because I honestly do not think I can take one more year of flying solo at holiday parties. I think it will crush me.

    1. alex*

      You’re not alone. I’m also early 30s, happily single; still, this time of year sucks. I skip most group parties, opting to hole up in pjs at home with my dogs. Treat yourself and screw everyone else!

    2. annakarina1*

      I’m tired of it, too. The worst was a couple of years ago, where I went to a NYE party that was mostly made up of couples, with the exception of me and another woman as straight singles. It was a nice party, and nobody made me feel bad, I just didn’t like feeling like the outlier among several committed couples.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Don’t force yourself to do what is too uncomfortable. Pick people/groups with deliberate plans. Sue is going to the party on Thursday, you know Sue will hang with you at the party. Perhaps you can decide to go for an hour.

      Or perhaps you decide no parties at all. Turn and look at self-care. Perhaps a soak in a hot tub. I like reading in bed. I have been thinking about looking for some salmon pate, I have not had that in a while. You get the idea, find things that do appeal to you in some small way. Practice giving yourself small acts of kindness.

    4. Girl friday*

      Tell people at work to come complain to you about their relationship holiday problems, I swear that will help.

    5. Dan*

      I dated two people (married one before I figured stuff out and cut her loose) who thought my purpose in life was to constantly tend to their happiness while we were out at social gatherings. What *I* wanted didn’t matter; if they weren’t happy they let me know and expected me to deal with it.

      Now that I’m a free bird, I gotta be honest… even at group outings where there are a lot of coupled people, I can enjoy going out without a +1. I get to do what I want, talk to who I want, stay out as late (or as early) as I want, blah blah. I don’t have to babysit people and ensure they don’t drink too much. While I certainly get that things don’t have to be that way when coupled up, when I’m not part of a couple, I really do embrace the freedom that comes with singledom.

    6. Gingerblue*

      Same here. I’m happily single and the thought of having a partner gives me hives, but the holidays are relentless in telling me I should be unhappy about this.

    7. Wishing You Well*

      Take care of yourself during this season. If you wouldn’t hang around someone who has the flu, don’t hang around someone who gives you an emotional flu. You have every right to protect yourself emotionally.
      The end of the year has so many issues for so many people, don’t assume people are happy just because they’re with someone. I hope they are, but I know some who are not single AND not happy.
      The holidays will pass. Regular programming will resume soon. Jedi hugs, if you want them.

  32. ThatGirl*

    My dad and brother are here for the weekend. I picked them up yesterday at the train. Apparently I didn’t read dads email carefully because they were planning to stay till Monday am… oh. Ok. That changes my plans a bit. Also dad (who is a pastor) wants us to go to church tomorrow. I never go to church at home. My husband was like uhhh… I’ll go, to keep peace, but it’s a bit awkward.

    1. valentine*

      You can say, “No, thanks,” to church and tell your brother it’s okay not to go, or stop hosting them.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Oh, my husband did not go, that was fine. They don’t have a car (took the train) so it was either go with them or let dad take my car, so I went. It is just awkward because there was a misunderstanding and I wasn’t mentally prepared. Overall it’s nice to see them, I just wish they were leaving earlier.

  33. wingmaster*

    Any tips on keeping curled hair longer than 10 minutes lol…..I have Asian hair. I’ve tried a few methods such as using product before and after or curling hair that hasn’t been washed for a few days. I think I still have to put an insane amount of product for it to stay longer. I’m probably doing it wrong, and I’m sure there are other ways to do this.

    1. Zona the Great*

      No I’m sure you’re doing all you can. I have fine straight hair and no curl will stay longer than 10 mins for me either. Have you tried a triple barrel curling iron? That’s about the best I can do to get any texture.

    2. Sparkly Lady*

      What type of curling iron are you using and how long do you hold the hair for? Also, have you tried setting wet hair rather than using a curler?

      Depending on what this is for, I also highly recommend hair pieces instead of curling by hand. Quality ones look great and save so much time.

      1. wingmaster*

        I currently have the Conair spiral iron. I’d say I hold it in for 10 seconds.

        I haven’t tried setting wet hair, though I have used foam curlers. I’ll also look into hair pieces. Thanks for the suggestion

    3. Catherine*

      Also Asian and this is why I get digital perms–then again I live in Japan where salon services are much cheaper than America. The perm holds for about two or three months. My stylist tells me I’ll get better curl if I buy a hair dryer and twist/spin my hair by hand as I dry it, but I’m satisfied by the curl I get by coiling and pinning my hair up and letting it dry in the bun.

    4. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      Straight as a stick hair, and baby fine. If I set with heat, it splits. So… I found the only way to keep curl is to set it wet. Foam curlers, or the vented ones… and then dry (there’s a bonnet thing you can add to your blow dryer to turn it into an old fashioned soft bonnet sealed dryer).

      Because of the baby fine texture, too much product just weighs it down. Or looks completely unnatural. LOL.

      1. Anono-me*

        I have similar hair and the only thing that works for me is to add a ton of mousse to wet hair then put it up in rag curls overnight. ( I can’t sleep in foam or regular curlers and blow drying doesn’t seem to hold as long for me.)

    5. Marion Ravenwood*

      Not sure what products you’re using, but I’d really recommend a salt/sugar spray – you can get them fairly cheaply at drugstores. Personally I like the Toni & Guy one but I’d experiment with a couple of different things and see which one works best for you.

  34. PhyllisB*

    Ugh!! I fell in the bathtub Thurs. night and fractured four ribs. Never had a broken/fracture in my life except when I fell in the driveway about 20 years ago and broke my tailbone. Count on me to get two injuries that they can’t do anything about.

    1. Thursday Next*

      Oh, how terrible! I suppose the only remedy is rest? When my father fractured his ribs, I remember him being so frustrated by that.

    2. fposte*

      Oh, man, ow! And four is a lot, too. Hoping for speedy healing. My understanding is that a pillow used as a splint can be helpful when you’re laughing :-).

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I hope you’re able to rest up and have a quick recovery.

      On a side note I managed to break leg falling over a soccer ball, my thumb swimming and my big toe falling off a push bike. I’m honestly not that clumsy most of the time, but when I am oh boy.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Are you doing breathing exercises? My husband broke all the ribs on one side and his collar bone. He had to do breathing exercises. It hurt at first but the pain quickly lessened as he was diligent about doing the exercises.

      You may get some reduction in pain with some calcium supplements, but check with the doc first.
      I am very sorry this happened to you, what a sucky time of year to have broken ribs.